Everytime I mentioned to someone that a new John Boyne book was being published, I was met with much excitement and anticipation. When I showed them the book, aptly illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, this excitement was met with further ooh’s and ah’s.
The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket is a departure from the type of novel we have come to recognise Boyne for. Best known for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (which has now sold over 1 million copies), Boyne has created in this book a character to love, an adventure to behold and a lesson to learn.
Barnaby Brocket is born in to a very normal family who just wish to go about and live their boring, unassuming lives. Except, Barnaby disrupts that plan when he is born defying the laws of gravity; he simply floats away from the ground until something stop him in his path…usually the ceiling which results in an “Ouch” from Barnaby. His parents are aghast that their offspring could be so strange and immediately seek to hide him from the public. Soon Barnaby is old enough to go to school and it’s really this moment that sets in motion the events which take Barnaby on an adventure across the world.
Eventually, after a school burning down and Barnaby appearing on national TV after a school trip Mr and Mrs Brocket have had enough of Barnaby and his floating ways and that’s when they do the terrible thing….they let him go. Mrs Brocket, (under the pretence that she and Barnaby are merely going for a walk) frees Barnaby of his weighted rucksack and sees him float away. Barnaby can do nothing but look at his mother with fear and disappointment as she slowly gets smaller and smaller. This time, there’s no ceiling to stop him floating away.
Soon we see Barnaby flying across the world and embarking on a journey of adventure and discovery. From a hot air balloon to the precarious edge of a New York skyscraper; Barnaby goes all over the place and meets a few interesting characters along the way too. It’s here that he really makes the journey of discovering who he is and realising that being normal isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be and really, is anybody truly normal?
You’ll find it hard not to love Barnaby Brocket; a character so full of innocence. This book is a charming, humorous look on our understanding of the ideal norm and teaches us all a lesson in acceptance and never being anything but who you are. And of course, I can’t finish this review without mentioning the wonderful illustrations by Oliver Jeffers (who previously illustrated Boyne’s ‘Noah Barleywater Runs Away). Boyne and Jeffers are a match made in heaven and I can’t now picture anybody else up to the job of illustrating Boyne’s children’s books. There are illustrations throughout the book and we really get the feeling we too are on a worlwide adventure flying high in the clouds with nothing but anticipation and no gravity getting in our way.
The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
£10.99, Hardback, 2nd August 2012
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