The Astounding Broccoli Boy discussion guide

The Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce is a successful British screenwriter whose credits include some of the Dr Who episodes and the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Millions, his debut chidlren's novel, won the 2004 Carnegie Medal and was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. His second and third novels, Framed and Cosmic were also shortlisted for various high profile book awards. His sequel and further adventures of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang have been very well received.

The Illustrator: Steve Lenton is a successful animator and art director within the realms of children’s television. He is the illustrator of the best selling Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam series by Tracey Corderoy, which was both the Waterstones picture book of the month and The Times Children's Book of the Week. He illustrates several of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s titles and Orchard's Fairytale Frankie picture book series.

Synopsis: Rory Rooney likes to be prepared for all eventualities. His favourite book is Don't Be Scared, Be Prepared, and he has memorized every page of it. He could even survive a hippo attack. He knows that just because something is unlikely doesn't mean it won't ever happen . . . But Rory isn't prepared when he suddenly and inexplicably turns green.

Stuck in an isolation ward in a hospital far from home with two other remarkably green children, Rory's as confused by his new condition as the medics seem to be. But what if it's not in their genes, or a virus, or something they ate? What if turning green actually means you've turned into a superhero? Rory can't wait to make it past hospital security and discover exactly what his superpower might be . . .

 

 Blue Peter Book Awards 2016 shortlist

Carnegie 2016 nominated

Weblinks:

Interview with Frank Cottrell Boyce 

Suggested Activities

Before Reading:

What is a superhero?

Discuss superheroes the children are familiar with alongside their alter egos, particularly Spiderman and Hulk who have very ordinary identities and it is a freak accident that initially gives them their superpower. What makes them superheroes?

What about characters such as Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon? Does a hero have to have strength and superpowers to be heroic?

During Reading:

Role play -Reacting to bad news

Look at the way the different characters react to the news of the Killer cat virus.

Rory’s Mum- sheer panic, Dad - relaxed, statistical chance of catching it, Rory’s sister calm and logical. In groups of 3 or 4 taking on the different roles one child can announce the cat virus news and the others improvise the reactions of the different characters.

What’s in a name? Stan Lee gave Hulk’s alter ego the name Bruce Banner because he found it easier to remember alliterative names. Why do you think alliterative names work well for characters? Peter Parker (Spiderman), Billy Batson (Captain Marvel), Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic), Matt Murdock (Daredevil)? Cottrell Boyce has also given his three heroes alliterative names Rory Rooney, Kory Komissky and Koko Kwok. What can we expect from them?

The nemesis: How does our understanding of this character change as we discover his different names? Grim - Tommy-Lee - Karol (Polish). You could start with the first two and revisit this question when the true identity is revealed at the end of the story.

Animating your Life

Comic book version of Rory’s life - why does he need one? Freedom to express himself?

Viewing himself as a character. Sketch a comic strip of the fall p.106-110.

Discussion

The story is rich with philosophical one liners - discuss the following in your group:

  • “If you need a hero, you have to be one p.16
  • “Everyone is good for something..everyone has their purpose.” p. 72
  • “In every story there are Heroes and Villains” p.17 and p.311. Is this true? Is it this black and white? Are people really like that? What happens when the hero becomes the villain or the villain becomes the hero? Consider Rory’s changing view of Koko: “Does Koko sound less like Xavier and more like Magneto?” p.252
  • “The problem is often the solution seen from a different point of view” p.334
  • “The thing that makes you different from everyone else—that’s your superpower.”p.388

News report

Conduct a news report on the capture of Rory, Tommy-Lee and Koko. Include plenty of questions and comments e.g. where did these aliens come from? Why have they taken the form of children? Is this an elaborate hoax? Interview the characters: the children*, people in the crowd, a policeman. Be sure to include key lines such as “we’re not sick...just different”

Consider how the media portrays incidents and how this affects our views.

Interview with Koko Kwok

Koko is a strong female character. She is organised and not afraid to challenge authority. Conduct an interview including her views on some of her key actions in the plot:

She was right about the wolves: “I was right even though everyone laughed at me” p.230

She sorts out the food in the hospital swapping quinoa for snack a jacks, she leads the Heroes of London to their final mission and she isn’t afraid to question the Prince and and Prime Minister about how to run the country.

Be afraid?

‘Don’t be scared be Prepared’ Rory’s father says,“Dangerous situations are not dangerous if you know what to do”.  What would be included in your version of this book?

The theme of fear runs throughout this plot: fear of the cat virus, fear of a bully, fear of wild animals, fear of aliens, fear of being different, fear of the unknown.  Are these rational fears? What is the fear based on? Does it make sense to be afraid of something that you don’t really understand? How do you think Rory overcomes his fear of Grim p.139. Discuss the themes of race, identity, individuality, courage, friendship that run throughout the story.

Further Reading:

David Solomons My Brother is a Superhero

Steve Cole Magic Ink

Also by Frank Cottrell Boyce: Millions, Framed, Cosmic, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, The Unforgotten Coat, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, Desirable

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