Author, John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) teamed up with illustrator, Oliver Jeffers (The Hueys, Stuck) to bring juvenile readers this absurd, quirky adventurous story. Born with the ability to float, Barnaby embarrasses his ‘normal’ parents that are obsessed with being perceived as ‘normal’ by their friends and neighbours. In turn, his parent’s treat him terrible. Like, ignore him and hang him on a clothes line, terrible. There is a conversation between Barnaby and his mother that will totally break your heart. After instructing him to stop floating, she tells him, ‘Then, I’m sorry… But I have to say that I don’t like who you are very much” (p. 37). At their wit’s end, his parent’s cut his weights and he floats around the world to meet other individuals that were sent away or abandoned by their families for also being ‘different’.
Although the characters in Barnaby’s travels all help in delivering the message that it’s OK to be different and true to oneself to be happy, the message got really repetitive. When Barnaby was intercepted by the International Space Mission, I got bored and started to skim the text. And yes, it is a bizarre fantasy story to begin with, but I felt the space portion was so over the top and unrealistic.
Looking at my blog, I noticed that I’ve been reading lots of books with boy characters deemed different by society. I think the availability of books about embracing differences is fabulous, especially for growing readers looking for someone to relate to. I found the ending of The Terrible Thing… was perfect in sticking with the overall message of the book. I wonder where in the world Barnaby’s next adventure awaits!