Here’s a review I wrote recently for http://middlegradestrikesback.blogspot.co.uk/ Check out the blog!
The Astounding Broccoli Boy
Pan MacMillan’s Synopsis:
Rory Rooney likes to be prepared for all eventualities. His favourite book is Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared, and he has memorized every page of it. He could even survive a hippo attack. He knows that just because something is unlikely doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen…
But Rory isn’t prepared when he suddenly and inexplicably turns green.
Stuck in an isolation ward in a hospital far from home with two other remarkably green children, Rory’s as confused by his new condition as the medics seem to be.
But what if it’s not in their genes, or a virus, or something they ate? What if turning green actually means you’ve turned into a superhero? Rory can’t wait to make it past hospital security and discover exactly what his superpower might be…
Killer Kittens, A Wagon Wheel and Superheroes.
It’s finally out! As a big Frank Cottrell Boyce fan, I’ve been bursting with excitement to get my hands on The Astounding Broccoli Boy, and wondered what the multi-award winning author of Cosmic, Millions and The Unforgotten Coat could possibly have in store for us this time.
So, did it live up to my expectations?
Well ok, I’m biased, but I’m pleased to say that once again The Master of comedy has created a fresh, hugely funny, and heartwarming story set in the real world, which sparkles with hilarious characters and ridiculous situations. It’s a genuine laugh-out-loud book (how rare is that?), and some of the scenes (I’ll call them The Bank, and Gorilla) had me crying tears of laughter, and left me chuckling about them for hours afterwards.
The finest aspect to this book is the relationship between Rory and his bully “Grim”, and how the trauma of being green brings them together. For me Grim/ Tommy-Lee Komissky is the real star of the book: a properly three dimensional bully boy, and Rory’s opposite, who endears himself to us as readers. We care as much about him as we do about Rory; and his performance as a comic book villain is just superbly portrayed*.
As in his previous books, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s dialogue is timed to perfection -hardly surprising after all those years of screen writing. His witty asides are so neatly tucked in that you almost miss them. But then they hit you like a custard pie in the face, and you’re left giggling from page to page.
There is a fine balance between the real world setting: You Tube clips, Facebook and Twitter, and surreal events: the Killer Kittens epidemic, boys turning green and brainy penguins. And it has a thoroughly British feel being set in London, complete with The Shard, bin men and nightclubs.
At the heart of this book is the theme of fear and anxiety, whether we’re being intimidated by the school bully, stockpiling spam and loo roll for a Killer Kittens outbreak, or standing face to face with a hippo. When Rory turns green he scares anyone who looks at him, and Rory’s trauma from being “different” will resonate with young readers.
At the end of the book Frank claims that Broccoli Boy was inspired by a medieval story about two green children, as well as a health condition which causes him to turn yellow. As I was reading the parts of the story about Rory being observed in hospital, I reflected on how this is the only book I’ve ever read that has accurately captured the feeling of what it is really like to be in hospital as a child-that sense of strangeness and vulnerability, mixed with the annoyance of not being able to eat your usual food, and do your usual tasks. Really perceptive, sensitive stuff, all wrapped up with a lot of silliness (you just know he writes for the laughs).
The final verdict?
Make no mistake: this is a real treat to savour. So, put your life on hold, grab your favourite chocolate bar (look out for the funny line about that), and bunker down in your own Fortress of Solitude.
Once you’ve escaped to Planet F-C-B, you’ll be reluctant to come back!
*Psst! Nobody mention leprechauns to Tommy-Lee…
Pippa Wilson @hellopipski