A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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.