The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce

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astounding broccoli boyThe Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Walden Pond Press, 2015.

11 year-old Rory Rooney has been a target for bullies, and now, to make things worse, his skin has turned a broccoli shade of green. And then it turns out that the only other occupant in the isolation ward he’s put in is none other than his nemesis from school, Tommy-Lee ‘Grim’ Komissky.

Inspired by comic book heroes, Rory comes to the obvious conclusion: being green has made them Super, and it seems that he can now “slightly teleport” and has a “200 percent brain”, and Tommy-Lee can open any locked door. But with the ‘Killer Kittens’ cat flu virus rampaging across England, and reports of aliens terrorizing London, it seems that these self-styled Knights of Green have never been more needed.

Written with a deliciously straight face, this novel has all the absurd comic elements you’d expect from the author of Millions (2005) and Cosmic (2010). The two unlikely companions have several slapstick night time escapades in London, including releasing all the animals from the zoo, and accidentally breaking into Buckingham Palace.

Along the way, they are joined by a third green kid, the mightily knowledgeable and bossy Koko Kwok. There is a lightly touched on examination of race, which is perfectly pitched at the likely reader. The three kids were originally “Chinese, pinkish white, [and] kind of brown [Rory is Guyanese-Irish]”, and Koko suggests that if everyone were the same shade of green, there could be “Peace and Harmony”.

The plot may be a little long-winded for an upper elementary/lower middle grade read, and some of the British colloquialisms could be confusing. but as the three kids learn about their real strengths, and their friendships deepen, the plot rattles along to a dramatic and exciting climax. All is revealed in the end, though the reader, even without an Astounding brain, may have worked it out well before Rory does.

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