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Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

Adam Baron
ISBN: 9780008267018

Cymbeline Igloo ( his dad, an actor, was performing in the Shakespeare play when he met Cym's mum) might be third-best footballer in Year 4 (joint) and second best at roller skating, but he has never been swimming. This is now a major problem as his class are going swimming and a stand off with the class bully has led Cym to boast about his swimming skills.

A challenge to a race follows and Cymbeline is left with a sense of impending doom about the lesson to come. Disaster follows - not only in his humiliation at the pool, but as it results in him losing his best friend, his mother's breakdown and admission to hospital and Cym ending up stuck living with his cousins until she is well enough to come home. Cym's problems only get worse when his mother discharges herself and goes missing and he realises that he will need to dive into some family secrets to save them both.

Cymbeline is a wonderful character with a unique voice which captures both the naivety of a nine year old and the knack they have of sometimes seeing things with a blinding simplicity which eludes adults completely. As he uncovers the many secrets that those around him having been hiding - from him and from each other - a story of family tragedy and heart-break unfolds, allowing a measure of healing and reconciliation to take place. The author, however, balances scenes of great poignancy with those of real humour, making the story a pleasure to read.

Lance, Cym's best friend, also offers the reader much to think about. His relationship with his two dads - his 'dad-dad' and his 'new-dad' shows how comments made by adults linger with children and can negatively affect them. The reader never hears the 'new dad' teasing Lance about his name or hears his comments about Cymbeline's name or why he thinks Lance goes to 'that kind of school', but his confusion and hurt are clear, allowing children to explore similar feelings and experiences. Veronique is another wonderfully portrayed character.

This is a 'read in one sitting' book. Full of secrets, friendship and family, it is compelling, poignant and funny. The perfect read.

256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.


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