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The Astounding Broccoli Boy

Review

The Astounding Broccoli Boy

Frank Cottrell Boyce is just a really good storyteller, the kind of guy you’d probably like to have around at family reunions or campfires, who hits just the right balance of wisdom and humor, and whose imagination knows no bounds. You may be most familiar with his book MILLIONS, which was not only a bestselling novel but also a feature film. Now Boyce is back with THE ASTOUNDING BROCCOLI BOY, a new twist on the superhero motif.

Like many superheroes-to-be, Rory Rooney’s real-life self is hardly impressive. He’s the smallest kid in his class and he’s perpetually bullied by Grim Komissky and his trusty assistants. Grim eats Rory’s sandwich every day for lunch (making it even harder for Rory to grow), and he also pushes Rory on the schoolyard, off the bus . . . you get the picture. But when Rory accidentally almost kills Grim by offering him a snack made with nuts, Rory’s life really takes a turn for the worse. Grim’s henchmen are out for revenge while Grim is in the hospital for an extended stay, and while on a school field trip, they push Rory into the river. But when Rory emerges . . . he’s turned bright green. Not “sick to my stomach” green --- bright broccoli green.

Frank Cottrell Boyce is just a really good storyteller, the kind of guy you’d probably like to have around at family reunions or campfires, who hits just the right balance of wisdom and humor, and whose imagination knows no bounds.

Rory is rushed to a London hospital, where he finds out he’s not alone --- and that the green person sharing his isolation chamber is probably the last person he’d want to be stranded with. But Rory decides to make the best of it, especially when he discovers the other boy can sleepwalk his way out of a locked hospital ward and that Rory himself can “slightly teleport.” Could the two boys, like the Incredible Hulk and the Green Lantern and other green heroes before them, have developed superpowers?

As the two boys venture out into a London that is increasingly on edge --- there is a cat-borne epidemic running rampant, rumors of aliens and wild animals in the streets --- they come to rely on one another despite themselves. And they discover that being a superhero might not be such a big secret after all: “If you need a hero, you have to be one,” Rory’s dad tells him --- and Rory and his new friends prove that point again and again.

Their story becomes increasingly bizarre, bordering on absurd --- they gain a hilarious penguin sidekick, for example, as well as a third green hero whose superpower is being in charge. But the lessons they learn through their memorable adventures are ones that kids will recognize and value --- the importance of overcoming negative first impressions, the ability to change for the better, and the recognition that our differences might be what makes us special --- even super.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 22, 2015

The Astounding Broccoli Boy
by Frank Cottrell Boyce

  • Publication Date: March 14, 2017
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press
  • ISBN-10: 0062400193
  • ISBN-13: 9780062400192