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Wooden boy seeks family in sprawling adventure.

What parents need to know


Fighting, accidental death of a child with blood mentioned, a sea battle, pirates murder, sailors are eaten by sharks, mentions of slitting a stomach and of limbs being cut off by ropes on a ship.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Barkbelly, a child, drinks and gets tipsy. Adults drink, smoke, and chew tobacco.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are a few scenes of fighting, including a battle with swords in which blood is mentioned; some sailors fall from the battle to sharks waiting below; and a child is accidentally killed in a playground mishap when his head hits the ground, with blood also mentioned. Also, several times Barkbelly, about 10, is given alcohol by adults, which seems to be common in the world of the book, and gets briefly tipsy.

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What's the story?

A farmer finds a wooden egg in a field and takes it home. One winter night he throws it on the fire, and is surprised when a wooden baby pops out of it. He and his wife adopt the child, who grows up strong and tough, and they name him Barkbelly.

One day at school Barkbelly accidentally kills one of his schoolmates. Sure that the townspeople will kill him, he flees and has a series of adventures, including working in a jam factory and joining a traveling circus. Along the way he learns that there is an island where other wooden people live, and he becomes determined to make his way there and find his family.

Is it any good?


Like Barkbelly himself, this book is not quite like anything else you've read. Reading the flap copy you might be tempted to think it's a Pinocchio variation, but aside from being about a wooden boy on a journey, they're not much alike.

Storyteller and first-time author Cat Weatherill has a unique imagination, and she puts it to work with a light touch on the fantasy elements, some lyrical language, and a picaresque journey through a fascinating world. It's an unfortunate surprise, then, that after displaying such deft handling of her unusual story, the author resorts to a deus ex machina to magically resolve the story into a too-pat ending. But this doesn't dampen the pleasure of the rest of the book, and Weatherill partially makes up for it by including a delightful little fable as an epilogue.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Barkbelly's quest for his own people and family. Why is this so important to him? Why is he so thrilled to learn that there are others like him? Why does he decide to return to his adoptive family, even knowing what awaits him there?

Book details

Author:Cat Weatherill
Illustrator:Peter Brown
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date:July 10, 2006
Number of pages:313

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Adult Written byBMTH.kid April 9, 2008

This good book yerrr

I think this is a good book becuase it tells you alot about the imagination of some people and takesyou into a whole different world. It is aimed at young teens and older children becuase there is some scenes of disgusting stuff with blood n tingz innit peace out:)
Kid, 12 years old October 8, 2012

parents should really read this

its a really good book trust me .i have read when i was 10 years old and i loved what there was some drinking i didnt think it was eccesive drinking like taking a six pack of castle and downing it!my parents are super protective and they thought it was fine.The violence is not too bad just a mistake that he killed a boy and many children young of age know about sharks or other animals eating people.I did! ahem it is a CHILDRENS BOOK NOT AN ADULTS BOOK! I am a 12 year old boy now and i am angry about what people are saying about this book.F.Y.I i am a readaholic but still play sports i aint a might be too big for begginer readers irespective of age.the part about the private part not so terrible for boys but for girls a bit of a prob cant know about those stuff.btw i aint discriminating aither.


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