Nit Boy by Tristan Bancks

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Illus. by Heath McKenzie. Puffin, ISBN: 9781760896300. 276pp.
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Nit Boy claims to be two books in one but it's just two different heads of hair. The narrative of both books oscillates between the forest of Lewis' hair and the universe surrounding the hapless Lewis, who is something of a freak to his fellow humans. Unlike Bancks' usual antiheroes, Ned has a short life to solve his identity crisis. In Part 1, Lift Off, Ned grapples with his identity as opposed to Lewis' human confidence that he is fine just the way he is, with his Dad's long hair complete with pets. The father-son relationship concerns both Lewis and Ned in their journeys of self-discovery. Lewis wants to be like his Dad who is absent a lot of the time and Ned wants to be nothing like his dad, who uses Ned to fulfil his own ambitions. Ms Herrick emits shades of Miss Trunchbowl, blaming Lewis for the headlice outbreak and making him miserable - but it's all Keith's fault, for forcing Ned to marry and have babies who can jump, yes jump - like fleas.
In part 2, cathartic secrets are brought to light as Ned leaves Lewis to live amongst the fleas on Dad's dog. Huck and his chocolate Labrador Boston, have returned from their field work - an absence that divides his family. Lewis struggles with veganism in the same way that Ned can't stand the taste of human blood. Pages cannot help being turned following their concurrent search for answers.
This is often a descriptively gross book of life-cycle diagrams and pop quizzes about fleas and head-lice, but amusingly the big picture issues abound - the environment, eating meat, morality, family, education and genetics. Illustrated by Heath McKenzie, these fantastic adventures are founded firmly in facts - an engaging discourse about change and epigenetics through which mankind is evolving. The frivolous subject matter, belies a layered line-up of characters worthy of fan or book club debate. Themes: School, Humour.
Deborah Robins