cover image The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket

John Boyne, illus. by Oliver Jeffers. Knopf, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-97762-5

“[T]he Brocket family was just about the most normal family in New South Wales, if not the whole of Australia. And then their third child was born.” Like Boyne and Jeffers’s Noah Barleywater Runs Away, this tale follows the journeys of an eight-year-old boy; unlike Noah Barley-water, though, Barnaby Brocket doesn’t leave willingly. Much to the dismay of his well-mannered, painfully normal parents, Barnaby floats in midair (Jeffers shows doctors and nurses gazing up at the hospital ceiling when he is born). Barnaby’s parents try quarantining him inside the house and weighing him down with sandbags, but one day his frustrated mother simply releases him into the sky. As Barnaby travels the globe, he meets people of all ages who have followed their dreams, stayed true to themselves, and embraced what makes them unique, from the elderly women (hinted to be a couple) who rescue him in a hot-air balloon to a famous Toronto art critic scarred by fire. It’s a fun and thought-provoking story of self-discovery, and the humor and gentleness with which Boyne delivers his message make it both unforgettable and delightful. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)