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The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket

By: John Boyne
illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers


In the allegorical style of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne paints a lighter, yet Roald Dahlesque tale of a unique boy – much to his parent’s dismay. The Brocket’s and their two eldest children are the definition of normal, so they are taken aback when their third child, Barnaby, can’t seem to keep his feet on the ground.  In fact, Barnaby floats. He defies gravity. And that isn’t normal. After eight years of the nonsense, Barnaby’s mother has had enough and quite literally, lets him go. As Barnaby floats away, he encounters a hot air balloon piloted by two women who don’t seem to think him odd. At their home in Brazil, they help Barnaby realize that his gravity defying trait, while different, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Barnaby journeys from Brazil to New York and other spots he floats by, he realizes that being unique might just be better than normal.

Prepared by Julie Fales, Shawnee Mission South High School Journalism Adviser, Overland Park, KS