The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket

Publisher: Corgi

Review

Alistair and Eleanor Brocket pride themselves on being perfectly normal. They have normal jobs, a normal house, and turn their noses up at anything remotely strange of out of the ordinary. Even their children, Henry and Melanie are normal until their third child, Barnaby Brocket is born and proves to have with a unique and unusual gift.

Barnaby defies the laws of gravity. Instead of standing on the ground, he floats - much to the horror of his parents, who are shocked and horrified by having such an abnormal child. Embarassed by what the neighbours will say, they try all kinds of strategies for keeping Barnaby's feet on the ground - from giving him a rucksack full of sand to making him wear a collar and lead, to shutting him away in a school for 'difficult' children. But whatever they do, Barnaby can't stop floating - and one day, when a school trip unexpectedly leads to his unusual gift becoming front page news, Alistair and Eleanor decide enough is enough and they can't take it any more. Barnaby has to go.

Betrayed by his mother, Barnaby is set loose to float up into the sky. At first he is frightened, but then he encounters two rather unusual old ladies on a voyage to Brazil in their hot air balloon. With no option but to join them, Barnaby finds himself setting out on a remarkable journey around the world, taking him from the coffee plantations of South America to the Chrysler building in New York, from Toronto to Ireland, and even into space. But although Barnaby takes delight in his adventures, and the friends he meets along the way - many with their unique and unusual talents of their own - he still feels he must head back home to his family.

This funny, warm, but poignant story has a thought-provoking message about the importance of accepting difference and being true to yourself. Barnaby makes for a hugely likable hero, and this story is full of fantastic characters, from eccentric contemporary artists to a villainous ringmaster to Barnaby's beloved dog, Captain W E Johns. Boklovers will enjoy spotting the numerous references to books from Heidi to Around the World in 80 Days in a book which is in part a tribue to the power of the imagination. Surreal and quirky in the tradition of children's writers like Roald Dahl, there are spme moments of darkness here too, but although the final resolution is bittersweet, this is ultimately a deeply uplifting story. Oliver Jeffers' beautiful illustrations add the perfect finishing touch.

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