Barnaby Brocket is an ordinary 8-year-old boy in most ways, but he was born different in one important way: he floats. Unlike everyone else, Barnaby does not obey the law of gravity. His parents, who have a horror of being noticed, want desperately for Barnaby to be normal, but he can't help who he is. And when the unthinkable happens, Barnaby finds himself on a journey that takes him all over the world. From Brazil to New York, Canada to Ireland, and even to space, the floating boy meets all sorts of different ...
Barnaby Brocket is an ordinary 8-year-old boy in most ways, but he was born different in one important way: he floats. Unlike everyone else, Barnaby does not obey the law of gravity. His parents, who have a horror of being noticed, want desperately for Barnaby to be normal, but he can't help who he is. And when the unthinkable happens, Barnaby finds himself on a journey that takes him all over the world. From Brazil to New York, Canada to Ireland, and even to space, the floating boy meets all sorts of different people—and discovers who he really is along the way.
This whimsical novel will delight middle graders, and make readers of all ages question the meaning of normal.
Gr 5–7—Barnaby Brocket was born with an extraordinary gift: he floats. At the age of eight, he is "lost" by his parents after his mother cuts open the sandbag-filled backpack that anchors him to the earth. (Obsessed with being "normal," they rival some of Roald Dahl's crueler fictional caregivers.) Barnaby floats away on adventure after adventure, which include being taken in by a couple in a hot-air balloon, saved by an impoverished artist cleaning the Chrysler building in New York City, and kidnapped by the owner of "Freakitude" (a group made up of folks as odd as Barnaby). Throughout his odyssey, the protagonist, showing an extraordinary level of innocence and trust, wants only to return home to Sydney. When he finally does so, his ability to float is determined to have been caused by some imbalance in his ears that could be surgically corrected. This fablelike story includes plenty of stock characters who serve the author's message: that people should be free to be themselves. However, the message is significantly tempered by the fact that Barnaby's gift also makes him dependent on others to not float away. Jeffers's whimsical drawings reveal both the humor and pathos of his situation. Readers looking for an action-filled story with a strong message may enjoy this one.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
“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.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, December 3, 2012: “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.”
Barnaby Brocket has been defying the laws of gravity since the day he was born. Now, at the ripe old age of 8, his life continues to be ruled by this fact: If he's not held down by outside forces, he floats. And as if that wasn't enough of a problem, he also happens to have been born into "the most normal family who ever lived in the Southern Hemisphere." Unfortunately, his mother and father have about as much compassion as the Dursleys of Harry Potter fame or the Wormwood parents in Roald Dahl's Matilda. They are so obsessed with maintaining normality that they not only send him to "The Graveling Academy for Unwanted Children," but are led to do something even more perfectly awful and unparentlike, which changes the course of Barnaby's life forever. Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 2006) is no stranger to difficult topics and uses this fanciful tale to explore being different and how to cope with it with wit and imagination. On his sometimes harrowing and fantastical odyssey back to his Australian home, Barnaby meets an amazing array of people similarly rejected by their families. All of his experiences ultimately prove to be character-building, if repetitive in their themes. A story of self-empowerment told with wry humor and purpose. (Fable. 8-12)
JOHN BOYNE was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of six novels for adults. His first novel for children, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, and has been made into a film. His novels are published in over 30 languages. He lives in Dublin.
OLIVER JEFFERS is an internationally acclaimed author-illustrator. His first picture book, How to Catch a Star (HarperCollins) was published in 2004 and since then he has created a further five picture books to much critical acclaim. He has won the Irish Book Award (where he first met John Boyne), the Blue Peter Book of the Year and the Nestlé Children's Book Prize as well as a host of shortlistings including the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. His books have been translated into 19 languages.