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.
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