Reviews for Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket

Booklist Reviews 2012 November #1
Barnaby Brocket is born into the normalest of Sydney families, but Barnaby is not normal--he floats. His parents try to adapt, sending him to reform school, weighting a rucksack with sand (which makes his shoulders hurt), and generally chastising his refusal to obey the laws of gravity. But Barnaby floats. One awful morning his mother takes him to the beach, slashes his rucksack, and, as the sand leaks out, watches him float away. And Barnaby is off on an adventure where he meets all manner of folks, including a pair of women on a coffee plantation in Brazil, an old man pursuing his bucket list in Zambia, a dastardly Irish freak-show proprietor, and an international cadre of astronauts in middle space. The fabulous story line is colored by Boyne's arch, tongue-in-cheek telling, which tempers some otherwise excruciating situations, and Jeffers' spare, gentle ink-and-pencil spot illustrations also add a soft touch. While there is no mistaking the central message about embracing differences, the quirky delivery, and Barnaby's own eight-year-old winning ways, have a compelling, irresistible charm. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
When Barnaby was born, he floated up to the hospital ceiling. To his ultra-normal parents' embarrassment, he never grew out of this condition, leading them to cut the tether keeping him earthbound. Barnaby's adventures floating around the world--and coming to terms with his own weirdness--make up Boyne's quirky be-yourself tale. Jeffers's delicate black-and-white illustrations enhance the story's humor and drama.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 December #1
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) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #1

"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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 January

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

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VOYA Reviews 2013 February
Mr. and Mrs. Brocket and their two children were decidedly normal. They "led a normal life in a normal house, lived in a normal neighborhood where [they] did normal things in a normal way." They did everything they could to follow the rules and be normal. Then, Barnaby was born, with one major abnormality--Barnaby floated. In fact, he had to be tethered to the ground in order not to float away. Mr. and Mrs. Brocket were horrified. Embarrassed by their strange son, they kept Barnaby locked away from the world, until he started attending school. The pressure was too much for his parents so one day, when Barnaby was only eight years old, Mrs. Brocket took him for a walk...and released him into the sky. What follows this horrifying act is a series of adventures for Barnaby as he travels around the world, trying to get home to his family Each adventure gives Barnaby (and readers) a new lesson to learn about resiliency and acceptance. Rather than subjecting readers to heavy-handed morals, however, Boyne delivers a delightful collection of unique characters, from whose stories we can draw our own conclusions. The dialogue is fresh and funny, and the charming line drawings by Oliver Jeffers enhance the novel's offbeat tone. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl's novels, but with slightly less bite, The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket is both quirky and heartwarming, and is an essential purchase for all libraries serving middle school readers.--Sara Martin 5Q 4P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.