Thursday, 9 August 2012

M's Review - The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket is a delicious romp of a story suitable for the oldest of readers right down to reading out loud to the youngest of not-yet-readers. The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed it.

Barnaby Brocket is born into the most ordinary of families in Sydney, Australia (although they’re actually quite remarkable in their ordinariness). But the arrival of baby Barnaby gives them quite a shock because he just can’t keep his feet on the ground. Barnaby floats. 

Then a really, really terrible thing happens to him. It really is terrible but it also opens up a world of possibilities for him and he heads off into all sorts of wonderful adventures. Along the way, he meets a host of marvellous characters.

Readers of all ages and levels will grasp the not-so-hidden theme of how tough it is when people won’t accept you and allow you to be who you are – or who you want to be. But John Boyne’s simple and humorous narrative carries layers of light and dark in the depth of this message so that individual readers may follow a slightly different reading journey as the story progresses.

The story also says a lot about relationships between children and their parents, and particularly father-child relationships: Barnaby and Alastair, Alastair and his wannabe-actor dad, Palmira and Thiago, Joshua and Samuel. All of these characters have dads who’ve let them down or not let their children be ‘themselves’. Food for thought for some people, perhaps….. But there are also plenty of characters with big hearts and some who openly display their loving loyalty to Barnaby. I think my favourite characters have got to be Ethel and Marjorie, and Captain W. E. Johns!

This edition is enhanced with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers. I particularly adored the postcards.

While the terrible thing is really terrible and one way or another, I bet the ending will make you shed a small tear, this is also a very funny, very heartwarming and very enjoyable story. Barnaby Brocket, the dear boy, is an absolute delight.

Publication details:
Doubleday (Random House), 2 August 2012, London, hardback

This copy: received for review from the publisher


This review is part of our world of stories series for August which celebrates children's classics and reading across generations. To find out more about this series and to win a book, hop over to this competition post.

Another John Boyne novel, the acclaimed The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas has been included in the new Vintage Children's Classics series.

The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Another contemporary classic that has been included in the Vintage Children's Classics list for teen readers is Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time. It has a new cover (thank goodness!!!) and you can read our earlier review of it here (I didn't like the cover then but highly recommend the story).

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Our review of it is here.


  1. This is next on my TBR list. I hope I love it as much as you did!

  2. Fantastic review, I completely agree and know that I will be keeping hold of my copy for the years to come when I have a baby to read to, its a story that will be a well loved favourite for many families!

    1. Thanks Raimy; we're holding on to our copy too :)


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