Review Blog

Nov 24 2009

The Loblolly boy by James Norcliffe

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2009.
(Ages 11+) Highly recommended. With echoes of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and even King Arthur, The Lobloolly Boy is intriguing, engrossing and wholly satisfying as it deals with a boy who lives in a children's home. He meets a winged child in the garden who encourages him to try to fly, and when he does so the winged boy takes his hand and their two lives are exchanged. The loblolly boy must now find out what he is and how he can get back.
At first enthralled with being able to fly, being invisible and having no-one tell him what to do or bully him, the novelty quickly wears off. He cannot eat; he has no friends and no place to call his own. And those people who can see him fall into two categories, the first are the Selectives who can see him and so are able to exchange places with him, but the second group, the Collectors are more sinister, and he runs into one of them, bent on collecting him as the pinnacle of his butterfly collection.
After flying to a bay where he meets Captain Bass, the loblolly boy learns many tings about his situation. Through a telescope he sees twins with the same colour hair as his, and a grumpy woman they call mum. Flying there, he comes to realise that this group of women are his sisters and his mother, and so develops a quest to return to his old self so his family can be reunited. The discussions the loblolly boy has with the twin girl he meets become deep conversations about the ramifications of going from the frying pan into the fire and what is life all about.
Pursued by the Collector sees the loblolly boy return to the captain to ask just how he can exchange with the original boy, and he learns that all the boys who have exchanged for what they see as a better life, soon come to realise that the grass on the other side of the wall is not always greener.
The loblolly boy is entirely rounded, a young boy trapped in a cruel children's home, wanting release from his tormenters, is willing to take whatever chance is offered him, but in doing so finds that this new life is full of pitfalls. His struggle to get out of this makes for an absorbing read for middle school students. This is a highly original fantasy story, and surprisingly for someone who does not read or usually like fantasy, this one I highly recommend.
Fran Knight

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