Cover Image: Brand New Boy

Brand New Boy

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Member Reviews

David Almond never disappoints! There was almost a Black Mirror flavour to this story (and I can always appreciate an Elon Musk subtle bashing!) - but taking the sci-fi plot twists aside, it is a beautiful story about acceptance, being yourself, fitting in, and friendship. I can see recommending it to children who are struggling with social interactions. The illustrations are also adorable and the plot overall was fun to follow, albeit maybe on the younger spectrum of the 9-12 category!
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A middle grade school based story where an unusual new pupil arrives to join the school.  Some very recognisable descriptions of school life and uplifting messages about acceptance and friendship. Illustrations did really lift it and the humour may work better on the target audience. Not sure however that it entirely works and certainly not one of his best books (admittedly high bar set).  Echo others comments that reading it on the NetGalley app was not a good experience.
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I was surprised to have had to add this book to Goodreads myself, quite close to publication day too (I finished on 19/10/20) - not a sign of very on the ball marketing and publicity!

This is a weird book for Almond to do, not a lot happens and it's Snowman like ending is disconcerting (that part at least is Almond-like) with a very contemporary setting. I loved the detail of the playground games, rare in modern novels, but that added to this book feeling somewhat out of time, more similar to books published in the 1990's than the 2020's. The characters were annoying and the jokes not funny, I guess like real kids! The teachers acceptance and enthusiasm for this weird project I suppose echoes kids confusion around adult motivations in general, but was unsettling.
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Brand New Boy is a really nice read. It's all about friendship, acceptance and learning to be and love yourself. A great read for kids and adults a like, has lots of talking points and shows the power of having good friends around you.
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3.5☆ A Unique and Intriguing Middle Grade Read. 

Brand New Boy is a unique story and not like anything I have read before.
This is also my first encounter with this author. 

This is a story that looks into acceptance, friendships, education and fitting in. 
I'm not really sure how to write up my review without potentially giving anything away. 

George was the new boy in school.
He was very very different to the other children, yet everyone wanted to be his friend. All the children wanted to help him and uncover why he was so different.
But strange things were happening... why was someone following George round making notes on his every move?
Just who is George? 

I enjoyed Brand New Boy and definitely feel that this book is perfect for middle grade readers, it just didn't hold my attention. I appreciate I'm not the target audience hence why I do think it will be more suited to them. But for me I didn't click with the plot and found it was too much of a slower paced read for me.
That said the illustrations are beautiful and definitely adds that special touch.
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Even though I am not normally a massive fan of middle grade, I have read and enjoyed some of David Almond's books in the past, so I wanted to give this one a go. I was pleased that I read this one because it captures what it is like to be a child and grow up.

So first I am going to get the negatives out the way. I think that at the start that the main characters seem to think a lot older than they were. This also seemed to match the ending, which I felt was kind of rushed, and it felt slightly strange and again, something that children would not do. I don't know, maybe it is just me.

I really did like George as a character, and I think that David Almond did a great job of building up tension in the book over his character. I liked seeing the hints towards George, and I like how I was guessing what George was until it was finally revealed. I also don't blame the kids that didn't want to find out as I would definitely be the same at 12.

Due to all of this, it did give me E.T vibes because the relationships between the characters were heightened, and David Almond does do a great job of making this really important. Especially after a major plot point happened, I felt like the characters really came together and were united for George. It was lovely about how friendship was at the core of the book.

The illustrations were also a highlight of the book, and they added to the story. I did love them, and I think that Maria and the parts of the story that she picked some features of the story that were great to see in the book.

As a lot of books are set in the South, so the Northern setting was a nice change. Also, this went into the dialogue as well, so it added to to the Northern feel of the story.

The Verdict:

Brand New Boy is a great new book by David Almond that explores the heights of friendship.
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This was ok, not one of almonds bests and I struggled with reading it on the netgalley shelf app. I am going to make sure from now on I check that all books can be sent to kindle before requesting them.
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If Ken Loach wrote Black Mirror, it would lead to something like this. The quiet giant of children’s literature has given another masterclass with Brand New Boy.

I have a soft spot for David Almond’s writing as it always gives me a rush of Northern pride alongside every other feeling he so reliably conjures. Again set up in the North East, Almond’s new book tells of the arrival of a strange new student at Darwin Primary Academy.

George - the brand new boy - seems peculiar. His responses are stiff and formal. He is followed and watched by the cold and immovable Miss Crystal and out of the black van emerges Mr Eden Marsh, both of whom are from a shady organisation. 

In language that is well pitched for 8 year olds upwards, Almond deftly introduces many complex ideas and notions about free will, imagination, progress, childhood and education. In the spirited characters of Dan and Maxi, and Dan’s loving warm mother, we see the beauty of the ordinary, set against the hollowness of Miss Crystal and Eden Marsh. Almond shows us what is being undervalued in the pursuit of technological progress - imagination, silliness, love, care, relationships, laughter, creativity… childhood itself.

Marta Altés’s illustrations support the lightness of Almond’s writing, and keep the magic realist scenes on the right side of scary. 

There are lots of smart references throughout. Eden Marsh is very transparently Elon Musk, whose pursuit of innovation ignores the beauty of the everyday, at the New Life Corporation. Darwin Primary Academy alludes to evolution. Mum’s salon ‘The New You’. All of this pursuit of newness and perfection overlooks the age-old values of play, friendship and imperfection.

The scenes set in schools are so brilliantly written. Like Almond showed in The Savage and My Name Is Mina, he has an uncanny way of capturing the lively talk of the children. It doesn’t feel invented - it just feels like appearing in a Tyneside classroom. The lessons are creative, again reminding us of the mundane achievements that all children make - they invent and imagine in a way nothing else can, and we don’t value it enough. For what it’s worth, I also like how Almond calls bollocks on the way that schools can be complicit in the harrowing out of childhood, and in the similarities between the ethics of the school and the New Life Corporation.

As is perhaps clear, I am a devotee of Almond, and Brand New Boy only cements that. Whilst still hovering within the realms magical realism, it was great to see Almond tackle technology. His writing always takes the side of the child, and perhaps never more so than in Brand New Boy; beside Dan, Maxi, Billy and Louise, we face the faceless drive for technological advance, and we say ‘no, we want to play in the woods’.
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I didn't really know what to expect from Brand New Boy but it really blew me away.  I don't want to say too much for fear of spoiling it, but while the story is quite simple on the surface, this book will make you think deeply and question what it means to be alive, to be human.  It is an incredibly heart-felt, thought-provoking, beautiful story and I would definitely recommend it to my Year 6 pupils.
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I loved this book and I have already purchased a copy for the school library upon reading it. Uplifting, heart-breaking and joyful. I particularly liked the adult who epitomised Elon Musk and the  desire to push for technological change as opposed to the children's focus on love, friendship and fun. David Almond never disappoints and always leaves the reader happier for having read his book.
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You know what's worse than reading a book that makes you cry in public? One that makes you cry on a bus in a mask, so you're just a sniffly mess 😭 @davidjalmond (fab illustrationsby @martaltes). Thanks for the #NetGalley proof @WalkerBooksUK! https://t.co/uHGUNsETvR
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A book about how weird life is. What does it mean to be human? What makes a friend? The new boy arrives at Darwen Avenue Primary Academy on the last week of the Easter term. The staff seem very excited with the Head teacher Mrs Hoolihan seeming to think it an honour their school has been chosen. George, who is very quiet but well behaved, is accompanied by Miss Crystal who is recording his every move. George is able to compute the more complicated sums their teacher Mr Sage asks the class, but cannot write creatively for an exercise, instead producing facts about the subject. But the children accept him and are friendly and try to ease his transition into a new class. The following day, Daniel is asked to take him home for tea and just show him a normal family life. Although Daniel’s Mum is thrown out by being asked to act normally, and retreating to Daniel’s room there is nothing normal about being followed by Miss Crystal who continues to note what is happening, both Daniel and his Mum welcome George.
However, on the last day of term George does not appear, but the black van which has collected George and its van driver Mr Marsh brings into school a large box on display when the upper years are called into assembly. Mr Marsh comes on stage to announce he and Miss Crystal work for New Life Corporation, and the Head grovels about opportunities and how privileged the school has been. She thinks it is an honour to have been chosen because their school has been judged to be ordinary and normal. The music teacher is less enthusiastic and takes out some of the children after asking them if they are nervous about seeing something that may shock them.
The shock they receive was not what any of the children had expected. Neither was it received in the way Miss Crystal and Mr Marsh had anticipated. Led by Billy Dodds who nurtures wildlife, a few friends step in to help their new friend George in ways they know the adults would not understand. This involves a visit to Cogan’s Woods, the local beauty spot and playground to adventurous children. Daniel and his best friend Maxie love playing in the wood and they show George the beauty of nature which surrounds them, climbing trees, tussling on the ground, and generally getting dirty as children do. They have a day of freedom and pure enjoyment of life. This becomes more poignant when they return to Daniel’s tired, dirty but happy. They know they have done their best for George and feel sad, yet content.
David Almond’s love of his surroundings as always shines through in his descriptions of the environment. A nostalgic view of carefree childhood with children wanting to be children and acceptance of others, along with the love of Daniel’s Mum for her son and willingness to take George under her wing and offer him love he’d not received from elsewhere make this an adventure book for children and a beautiful evocative book for adults.
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I found myself staring into space after finishing the final chapter of David Almond’s Brand New Boy; marvelling at how this master storyteller manages to lead us into the dark depths of his middle grade novel, where its existential themes are lurking, while still making us feel like we are being floated along on the gentlest of currents.
Indeed it is with the very lightest of touches and through the innocent eyes of  Daniel that we meet George - a strange new boy who makes Daniel question what it means to be alive and free. 
Daniel and his friends could be any one of us; they are children who eat crisps and play imaginary games in the woods, who enjoy a game of football in the playground. He embodies the very essence of a normal childhood, in a normal school, in a normal town, in a normal time. There are no fireworks or sleights of hand or dastardly villains in this story, nor heart-stopping peril or monstrous beasts; but it is perhaps all the more startling for that very reason - the idea that there could be things in the real world, or in the near future, created by ‘normal’ people that don’t quite sit right in our minds. 
By the same token, however, we learn that an ordinary child can do extraordinary things; Daniel’s curious and caring nature, supported by a heartwarming relationship with his Mam, shows us how accepting and perceptive and ingenious a ‘normal’ child can be.
Middle grade readers will no doubt enjoy the familiar environments of this novel, brought to life by the wonderful illustrations of Marta Altés, and perhaps revel in seeing teachers and adults fall into the age-old trap of  underestimating the children in their lives!
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This book highlighted once again how incredible children are, how accepting they can be and how they allow others just to be when the adults around them sometimes forget how to do this. Daniel and his friends might be ‘normal’ from the outside, they might attend a ‘normal’ school but little do the adults know just how passionate ‘normal’ children are about their friends, even if they’ve only just met. It is warm, funny and full of heart.
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This book is one that will make you think, long after you have finished the book.
Darwin Avenue Primary Academy is your normal school, full of normal kids, like Dan and Maxie.  They like to hang out, eat crisps and wrestle.  They love playing football and making new friends.
George is a new classmate and the school are being urged to welcome him and make him feel like a normal kid! George is being closely monitored by Miss Crystal, who is constantly writing things down about him, and she tries to encourage the children to interact with George, doing normal things like football and maths.   It turns out George is good at maths and an excellent football player.
Dan is asked to invite George round for tea one afternoon and his Mam is worried that George hasn’t been shown a lot of love in his life.  Dan is worried for a different reason.  
Believing that George is very different to him and his friends, he starts to look for clues about George.  Dan doesn’t need to search too hard as the truth is revealed to those with strong constitutions in a school assembly.  
Darwin Avenue Primary Academy is on the cutting edge but many believe it is wrong and want to put things to right.  
Dan and Maxie will be at the centre of a plan to set George free! 

I realise this is a rather cryptic review but I think it needs to be bought and read to truly appreciate the content and context of the friendship between Dan, Maxie and George.  This book would be an incredible class read for Years 5 or 6 and there would be plenty of discussions to be had around friendships, freedom, compassion and what it means to be free.  
Fantastically thought provoking in true David Almond style.
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This is a book to encourage children to reflect on what makes them what they are. It opens up a great opportunity to instigate thoughts on humanity and what makes us human. Is it kindness, intelligence, love for pets, empathy, love for food, our parents, our school? Is it freedom to run around inside a forest with your friends? Freedom to be? To choose? Can we as human reproduce artificially what being human means? This book portraits school children who are brave, full of empathy and great friends. I think lots of children will recognise themselves in them. Beautiful book. Highly recommended!
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What an odd and unique story! I went into this completely blind and I think that also bumped this up another star in the rating because I felt like the other characters, confused about the new boy in town. George is seemingly perfect at everything and that intrigues Dan and his friends. I loved how this story unfolded and the fun it poked at perfectionism and real-life. I loved the punch it packed while also being lighthearted at other times.
The best part was how it approached topics like friendship and belonging, especially when you feel like a bit of an outsider to begin with.

A unique read that I will think about for a while!
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I absolutely adored this book. A beautifully told, thought provoking, unique story. I just know that the children at my school will love this book so I’ve pre-ordered it to feature in our Book Club! 
The storytelling was great and I constantly wanted to read “just one more” chapter before putting it down. “Perfectly splendid”!
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Brand New Boy is a unique story with a lot of heart and some quite complex themes running as an undercurrent through the book.

Dan and his friends are intrigued by their new classmate, George. He is a whizz at Maths and a football superstar but there’s something not quite right about him. When they uncover George’s secret, will they still be keen to be friends with the brand new boy? 

David Almond has created something very unusual with this tale. It is a thought-provoking story exploring friendship, belonging and what it means to be human. 

The story itself is relatively simple but there are a few hidden punches and one-liners that make you stop and take a moment to reflect. I enjoyed the story and I believe my Year 5 would also like reading it, however I think much of the beauty of the story may be lost upon them. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
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An easily accessible book for young readers which explores what it really means to be human. Children will be able to relate to the characters and I think many will wish that the new boy George had arrived at their school. The wonderful illustrations really compliment the style of the story. 

With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers.
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