The Astounding Broccoli Boy is the latest novel by Frank Cottrell Boyce, and as long term readers will know, the children and I are slightly obsessed by Frank Cottrell Boyce, so it will come as no surprise that we have just finished reading it.
I had pre-ordered it from Amazon, and it arrived on the first day of publication. If I had been left to my own devices I would have read it in a day all by myself, but I was not allowed to indulge in such a luxury, and the children and I have been sharing it as a bed time story every night for weeks now.
Rory Rooney is a puny child whose life is made hell by the huge, kick boxing bully he calls Grim Komissky. Grim steals Rory’s lunch every day and pushes him off the school bus every afternoon. Rory is sick of it, and tries to find various ways to deal with Grim. His mother is not much use, being obsessed by the Killer Kittens virus sweeping the nation, and trying to future proof her family and keep them safe from a much bigger threat than a school bully. Rory’s dad is not a lot better, advising his son to take action in various ways recommended by his extensive knowledge of super heroes and the way they fight crime.
Rory tries everything he can, including just giving Grim his lunch. One day Grim goes into anaphylactic shock when Rory accidentally feeds him a biscuit that contains nuts, and Rory is branded a potential murderer and number one trouble maker in the school. This undeserved reputation is further cemented when Rory turns bright green on a school trip and has to be carted off to the isolation unit of a famous hospital where Dr. Brightside tries to find out what has caused Rory’s greenness.
Things are not going well for Rory, and they continue to get worse when he realises that the one other person who is also in the isolation unit is his arch enemy, Grim Komissky.
How will Rory get over his greenness, defeat his enemy and figure out his super powers, for how can he not be super given that he is green?
Cottrell Boyce excels at writing from the point of view of a child. He uses it to great comic, and sometimes tragic effect. Rory’s story is a kind of coming of age novel, but written with a real tenderness and thought for what a child would actually make of the sometimes tricky problems that life throws at them.
There are some standout passages in the book. We particularly loved the episode at the zoo, and with the dustbin lorry, although there are many more laugh out loud moments. We also absolutely adored the penguins. I won’t give anything else away, because one of the joys of the story is the fact that it is fresh, and is full of episodes and ideas that will surprise and delight you.
As you can guess, we all loved it, and were so gripped by it at the end that I sat up reading the last fifty pages to the children last night until I was hoarse and their eyes were drooping, but we were determined to find out what happened. There are some excellent moments of tension in the last quarter of the book that kept us on the edge of our seats, and we just had to know how it all turned out.
We recommend this book as a brilliant book to share at bed time with boys and girls aged six and up. We recommend it for independent readers aged 7-12. Although the two main characters are boys, there are some great girl characters and the humour and the clever writing mean that this is a book that will appeal to everyone, even parents.