Skip to main content




Originally published in 1992 as GRIDZBI SPUDVETCH!, BOOM! by Mark Haddon retains, in its re-worked new edition, all the whimsy and surprise of its first title. It’s a freewheeling adventure with a thick sci-fi streak. The young hero is Jimbo, a typical English schoolboy who happens to discover, along with his pal, Charlie, that there is a planet called Plonk beyond this one whose creatures have come to earth.  Not surprisingly, the aliens have taken the form of school teachers in order to carry out their secret plans to steal humans away to help populate Plonk.

Okay, so perhaps it’s not the most original of plots, but this short chapter book is still great fun. 

After Jimbo’s older sister, Becky, told him his teachers are planning to send him to a school for “kids with problems,” he and Charlie hatch a plan to eavesdrop on the teachers to see if she is telling the truth. After hiding a walkie-talkie in the teachers’ lounge, the boys listen in on another one from a shed on school grounds. What they hear is boring and has nothing to do with Jimbo at all. But then they hear two teachers talking in a strange language (“bretnick…toller bandol venting…loy garting dandle…”) and instinctively know that something fishy is going on.

Charlie begins to stalk the teachers, hoping for clues to their unusual language and behavior (which includes blue light coming from their eyes and the wearing of communication devices on their wrists), but Jimbo wants nothing to do with any of it. However, when Charlie disappears, Jimbo knows he has to find him. And when thugs sporting the same copper bracelets as the others come into Jimbo's house and attack him, he knows he has no choice but to find out what is going on. Before you know it, he and Becky are zooming to Scotland on a stolen motorcycle in search of Charlie and whoever may have him. What they find is a portal to another world in the middle of a desolate area.

Charlie and Jimbo are reunited on the planet Plonk, but how they will escape their captors and get home is unclear.

BOOM! zips along at a brisk pace. Though we don't get to know the characters very well, we are caught up in their adventure. The story is silly and implausible, with plenty of action, danger and mystery, obvious bad guys and likable good guys. Not everything makes sense, but in a book like this, that’s not a requirement: the idea is to be swept up in the story, the adventure and the thrills. Haddon's book has some of the requisite themes found in novels for young readers, but balances them well with unexpected bits and keeps it funny throughout. Overall, BOOM! is an entertaining and enjoyable tale.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 10, 2011

by Mark Haddon

  • Publication Date: May 10, 2011
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0385752245
  • ISBN-13: 9780385752244