cover image Brand New Boy

Brand New Boy

David Almond, illus. by Marta Altés. Candlewick, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5362-2270-8

A child questions life’s routines and predictabilities in Almond’s (Annie Lumsden, the Girl from the Sea) gently existential telling. When new kid George shows up at Darwin Avenue Primary Academy in the last week of term, no one knows quite what to make of him. The 11-year-old is small, pale, emotionally distant, and when he speaks, barely moving his mouth, he either delivers dry facts (“Mam is the colloquial name for mother”) or solves complex math; moreover, an adult called Miss Crystal seems always on hand, observing his every move. Nevertheless, George is soon accepted by his classmates, including white narrator Daniel, who yearns for the freedom of the outdoors and hopes to “discover brand-new worlds” like explorers discussed in class, and his exuberant Black best friend Maxie. Even while questioning George’s true nature, they encourage him to join in their everyday activities, including lunchtime football. And when they learn that George is a prototype robot destined for replacement, they launch a plan to free their new friend. A wide-ranging narrative voice, by turns humorous, hopeful, and triumphant, traces the friends’ attempts to help George transcend his own seemingly limited nature, while exploring impulses of imagination and creative freedom alongside classroom rigidity. Black-and-white illustrations from Altés (New in Town) portray the racially inclusive cast’s interactions. Ages 8–12. (May)