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The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket Hardcover – January 8, 2013


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 980L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307977625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307977625
  • ASIN: 0307977625
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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 Cityα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

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. Grades 4-6. --Thom Barthelmess

More About the Author

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels for adults and three for children. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, reached no.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into an award-winning Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 45 languages. He lives in Dublin.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Dewing on December 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THe kids and I just finished reading this story. We have a family book club and this story was recommended by our school librarian. It was so imaginative and we loved all the unique places that Barnaby traveled to… and his brave decision. Well done!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miguel Ramos on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The experience of reading it as a family was very nurturing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Frederick on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Reading The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne was a bit of a stretch for me, even as an avid Middle Grade fan, perhaps because the book skews toward the younger end of that spectrum (around age 8). While it was adventurous, charming, and wonderfully written, it was also too heavy handed for my tastes. I believe it will be an ideal book for many children (or adults) who need to feel as if it is okay to be something other than "normal", but complete lack of subtlety and a requirement for the suspension of disbelief beyond what I myself am willing to give made The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket a poor match for this particular reader.

I elected to read John Boyne's most recent book largely because I had heard such wonderful things about the very successful, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. In whimsy and style, I was not disappointed. I could easily imagine the audio for The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket being narrated by Jim Dale (the man who captures charm through narration like none other), and would instantly liken the writing to one of my all time favorites-Roald Dahl. However, where Roald Dahl coaxes readers along to a message through a marvelous tale, John Boyne has veritably beaten us over the head with his message, the adventure becoming almost a side show to this main act of proselytizing.

"Anyway, the point is, just because your version of normal isn't the same as someone else's version doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you."

Is the message something I disagree with? Absolutely not! Boyne works very hard to show us through the tale of Barnaby Brocket that there is no such thing as normal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brett H TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is undoubtedly a book aimed at younger readers, though much like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by the same author, this is not to say that adults will not find it a good read.

Mr and Mrs Brocket value their normal lives and are determined to stamp out abnormality - particularly Barnaby's floating (in the literal sense) - at any cost. These values lead the Brockets to do something quite dreadful - the `terrible thing'. It does, however, offer us sensible advice: sometimes being brave enough to stand out from the crowd will earn you something far more valuable than an easy life. As well as being a lesson worth learning for adults, it's a brilliant thing for younger readers to consider before social pressures make them too afraid to `be different'. It is never really made clear if Barnaby truly forgives his family, despite advising others on his travels to do just that, which makes the 'forgive and forget' lesson in the book rather convoluted. Mr and Mrs Brocket, however, are undoubtedly the exception, for they are unwilling to accept Barnaby for who he is - another important message this book carries.

One charming and interesting aspect of the book that well-read readers will appreciate is the importation of various elements of other novels: Mr and Mrs Brocket could well be Mr and Mrs Dursley from Harry Potter; Barnaby's experiences of school rival those of Roald Dahl's Matilda; Barnaby is born, like Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, at midnight on a Friday. It makes one wonder if, perhaps, the author is consciously drawing on these already established classics to repeat the oft-told message that difference should be embraced rather than scorned.

It does not entirely convince as a plausible classic itself.
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Format: Paperback
Poor Barnaby Brocket. A floating boy scarcely fits into a family that prides itself upon complete and utter normalcy. The Brocket parents try for years to correct their youngest son’s disregard for the laws of gravity, but keeping him earthbound with a weighted backpack and sending him to a school for troubled youngsters simply doesn’t straighten the child out. When his floating abilities get him local attention, they decide that something must be done. Something terrible, in fact.

Much to Barnaby’s surprise, his own mother cuts him loose from his weighted pack and sends him free-floating off into the world without so much as a second glance. The delightfully silly story follows the buoyant 8-year-old on an exciting journey around the world (and beyond) as he quests to return to his native Australia. Along the way, he meets a fabulous host of characters and learns to love himself for his differences.

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket will especially tickle readers who are fans of Roald Dahl, and they just might learn a lesson about tolerance while they’re at it.

This review originally appeared on abookandahug.com
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