The Astounding Broccoli Boy
By Frank Cottrell Boyce
Published by Macmillan
ISBN 978 0 230 7541 5
Chief Muppet, Kermit the Frog, once sang a song called It’s Not Easy Being Green; the song is about how, if you’re an outsider, life isn’t always a lot of fun. But of course, there are a few superheroes who are green: The Hulk, Swamp Thing, The Green Knight. Presumably life’s not so bad for superheroes of any hue.
Tell Rory Rooney that and he would agree with you. Rory loves superheroes, and not a day goes by when he doesn’t pray for one to come to his rescue. Rory is timid, and small for his age, a natural victim for school bully Grim Komissky who seizes every chance he can to make Rory’s life miserable.
Big Grim is an Under-16 Kick-Boxing Champion, and he likes to throw his weight around. Every day, he stuffs Rory into rubbish bins, steals his lunch and throws his school bag off the bus. Rory has got himself a book called Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared, but it doesn’t offer any advise on how to deal with the Grim Komisskies of this world.
Rory trudges to school every day expecting and receiving bullying and ridicule. But there’s a big change waiting around the corner. Broccoli Boy is lurking in the wings about to change the lives of these two inner-city schoolboys for ever.
It all changes during a school trip into the countryside when Grim pushes Rory into a river. When he crawls out of the water, everyone on the river bank throw their arms up in horror: Rory has turned green! His face, arms and legs are now the colour of broccoli.
Whisked away by helicopter to a secure hospital, Rory learns that the doctors in charge think that his skin condition is related to a recent epidemic. Things get worse when another boy is brought with the same affliction – and it’s Grim.
Rory is nervous about the situation, but their curious change causes the boys to form an unlikely bond, and they decide to become superheroes. Under cover of darkness, they escape the hospital, looking for adventure.
They rob a “bank”, free animals from a zoo and meet Koko Kwok, a smart girl who seems to have suffered the same fate. The adventures that follow are captivating, and the climax is as thrilling as any in a real superhero story.
Broccoli Boy is an off-the-wall mad-cap romp, and no writer does this sort of book better than Frank Cottrell Boyce. This is a joyful book that makes older teens and adults jealous that it’s not written for them. Gobble it up in one go!
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com