[Review] One unwanted son's story will break and warm your heart

[Review] One unwanted son's story will break and warm your heart

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket

By John Boyne
Published by Corgi
ISBN 978-0552565769

Mr and Mrs Brocket pride themselves on being the most normal and ordinary married couple in the whole of Sydney, if not the whole of Australia. They are ordinary in both their private and their public lives, and they completely avoid anyone or anything that is different. Different is bad, but normal is good.

They never stray from the straight path that cuts through their lives. The Brockets have no time at all for people who are unusual or draw attention to themselves with strange behaviour in public.

But when their son Barnaby is born, the Brockets are thrown into a state of utter confusion and despair. Why? Because Barnaby is not normal. Unlike every other human being on the planet, Barnaby Brocket does not obey the laws of gravity. He floats. How are Mrs and Mrs Brocket going to cope with this awful situation?

For starters, a floating baby is an embarrassment. The Brockets keep their baby son inside the house, tied down with ropes and weighed down by sandbags. The parents are worried about people finding out their child is a "freak".

The frantic parents enrol Barnaby at The Graveling Academy for Unwanted Children. Weighed down with sandbags in his backpack, Barnaby starts school. But Barnaby obviously isn't going to grow out of floating. So desperate times call for desperate measures.

One day, Mrs Brocket takes Barnaby on a walk on the cliffs overlooking Sydney Harbour. She gets out a pair of scissors and stabs a hole in the bottom of the sandbag tied to Barnaby. The little boy gasps in horror as the bag empties and he floats off into the sky. Barnaby Brocket drifts helplessly among the clouds, not knowing what is going to happen next.

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brockett has strong characters and is a fun and thought-provoking story of self-discovery, self-empowerment and adventure.

John Boyne packs his weird and wonderful tale with laugh-out-loud humour and moving passages about understanding and gentleness. The Brockets would hate the book because nothing about it is normal. But readers looking for something a little unusual with a strong message about how humans treat each other will enjoy this one.

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com

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This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
One unwanted son's story will break and warm your heart


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