Sunday 24 October 2021

The Boy with Wings

The Boy with Wings by Lenny Henry (Macmillan Children’s Books) PB RRP $18.99 ISBN 9781529067835

Reviewed by Kathleen Grace

Children’s TV star Sir Lenny Henry debuts with this, his first novel with Macmillan Children’s Books. 

How important is school when you learn that you are all that stands between Earth and total destruction? This, well into the book, is the dilemma facing Caribbean boy Tunde.

In the first chapter we learn that Tunde is the adopted only child of parents who work at The Facility. It is his 12th birthday, and he has invited his friends, wheelchair-bound Kyle, Jiah and (Nev)ille to his party. However, bullies Quinn Patterson, Sanjay, Billy, and Pauly, cause chaos when they gatecrash (and wreck) things. Happily, the bully gang is attacked and scared off by a flock of over a thousand magpies. This isn’t the first time Tunde has experienced an intervention from things with wings. Once, when he was lost, a thousand birds formed an arrow in the sky to show him the way home. Later, in the middle of a football match when he leaps for the ball, he stays in the air – wearing an enormous pair of wings!

The story sometimes segues into different anecdotes: for example, there’s a chapter inserted about The Facility and its founder, Professor Emil Krauss, and another chapter about The Seeker. Other chapters are basically about Tunde. After his 12th birthday, there’s a chapter about when he is 11 and his adoptive parents ‘change’: his dad stops telling jokes and there are new rules, such as ‘you are not to run or do any sports.’ Despite this, Tunde takes part in a 1,500 metres race (which he wins).

Under the guidance of The Seeker, Tunde gains new powers, a secret past, and some powerful people who are determined to keep that past secret. There is also a problem regarding The Facility -- one suspecting that it has something has to do with Tunde’s being adopted.

This is an action-packed but disjointed story with words in the text – like 'YIKES', 'flatulent', 'humongous', and 'ducked' – in different, and sometimes bold font. There are also invented words like ‘brill-tissimo-tastic’, ‘gazil-ton’, ‘yum-a rama’. Black, grey, and white illustrations are scattered through the book.

The recommended reading age for this adventure, fantasy novel is middle grade.

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