Book Title: Brand New Boy (available here)
Author: David Almond
Illustrator: Marta Atlés
Publication Date: Nov 2020
Most Suitable For: KS2
A simple but punch-packing new tale from storytelling master David Almond.
When a brand new boy called George starts at school, Daniel and his best friend Maxie are looking forward to getting a chance to enjoy the company of a new classmate. Daniel agrees to keep an eye on the new boy, although he has to admit there are few unusual things about George. Whether it’s the way that Miss Crystal watches his every step and makes ongoing observations in her notebook or the way that George can answer complicated maths questions without having to think about them, yet doesn’t seem to have an understanding of some of the very basic chatter between Daniel and his friends, something seems amiss.
Daniel’s chance to get to know George better arrives when the adults in school ask Daniel to invite George round for tea. But it comes with a caveat: Miss Crystal must come too, and George must only eat a few drops of olive oil and a small piece of dry bread. Welcoming George with warmth and hospitality, it’s as clear to Daniel’s Mum as it is to Daniel that there’s something unusual about this new boy. Every experience seems new to him, whether it’s meeting Kushko the cat or hanging out to chat in Daniel’s bedroom. A series of questions without answers begins to unravel - like why George is ushered unwillingly into a black van at the end of the play date, or why the teachers seem to have a weird response to George in class, or why there’s a sudden announcement that George will be leaving the school. And what exactly is inside that tall box that is wheeled into assembly the following week…?
This is an innovative story that weaves themes of compassion, hope and community as well as what it means to be alive. Martha Altés' illustrations bring out the characters brilliantly and provide extra hints and clues along the way. The dignity and compassion with which Daniel and his friends treat George are painted beautifully. I also loved the characterisation of Daniel’s mum, who is full of love, acceptance and a happy dose of Geordie warmth. Her dedication to protecting Daniel’s childhood innocence clearly has an impact that Daniel passes forward in the way he cares for George, recognising the importance of playing out in the wild, enjoying songs and stories together as well as providing a safe space for George to make decisions for himself. The way people have been treated in the family home often naturally affects how they treat strangers, and Daniel is a prime example of this. The dangerous impact of technology on children is touched upon, but so is its potential to enhance human experience when treated sagely, with respect for human experience kept at its heart. Equally, the school system is shown to be able to make children feel like robots or cogs in a machine, but can also be wonderful, life-affirming and experience-bringing, as embodied in the music teacher Mrs Imani, whose positive impact also rubs off on the way the children treat George when they play together.
True to style, David Almond weaves a thought-provoking tale with hints of darkness, plenty of hope and pause for reflection on what it means to be alive.
We have two copies of Brand New Boy to give away to our followers.
There are two ways to enter:
1. Twitter entry - To enter, follow @booksfortopics and RT the giveaway tweet.
2. Instagram entry - Follow @booksfortopics on Instagram & TAG in the giveaway post's comments a friend who may also like to win this book for their home or school library.
You can enter both ways for two entries! Giveaway closes 11.59pm 16th December (UK).
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and providing the giveaway prize. Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too.
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