Boy Underwater - Adam Baron
As a new release, I hadn't heard anything about this. I had a credit ready to spend on Audible, and was looking for something new in children's books - and this ended up in my library. I assumed (from the title and a quick skim of the blurb) that this kid would end up as some sort of cool merman? I was very wrong.... But I have never been so happy to be wrong about a book before.
I need to preface my review by saying that this read like anything but a novel aimed at children. If you want a more eloquent explanation of the book and it's contents, this article by the author is worth a read.
Cymbeline is a 10 year old boy who has just one parent - his mum. She means the world for him, although she has never taught him to swim. The competitiveness of 10-year-old boys (I teach boys of that age - it's so realistic!) leads to Cymbeline pretending he can swim.... and his mother completely freaks out when he nearly drowns. As a result, she ends up in psychiatric care. Cymbeline is forced to stay with his relatives while desperately trying to find out the secrets of his family history, convinced that he can be the one to make him mum better.
Rating: 5 out of 5. Maybe 6 out of 5? It was so wonderful! Although I listened to this as an audiobook, I immediately bought the physical copy to add to my library!
Age suggestion: 10+ if they are emotionally mature. See content notes....
Ability range: 10+. The vocabulary itself isn't particularly complex, but the topics certainly are.
Content notes: Mental illness and suicidal tendencies are certainly present - although not explicitly mentioned. Adults and children with exposure to these concepts are likely to pick these up. Poor Cymbeline ends up in the pool with his pants off - and as a result, both the words 'penis' and 'vagina' are used in their anatomically correct ways. I think it's important that children are exposed to the correct name of things, but it's certainly worth noting that this will potentially be a subject of giggles, depending on who's reading. Cymbeline's aunt leaves her workaholic husband for her tennis instructor, spending much of the novel 'working on her backhand'.... which will mostly go over the readers' head, but provides nice context for his cousins' nasty behaviour.
It's not often that I spend all my free time attempting to find time to fit in an audiobook - but this was one of them! Check it out yourself!