The Boy who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair
written by Lara Williamson
First published by Usborne in 2015
Cover and design work by Usborne team
336 pages in paperback
including a Q&A with the writer
and how to make paper cranes!
Summary from Publishers
Becket Rumsey is all at sea.
His dad has run away with him and his brother Billy in the middle of the night. And they’ve left everything behind, including their almost-mum Pearl. Becket has no idea what’s going on – it’s a mystery.
So with the help of Billy and a snail called Brian, Becket sets out on a journey of discovery. It’s not plain sailing but then what journeys ever are?
Extract from first chapter:
My name is Becket Rumsey and there are lots of important people in my life who I talk to every day. For starters: my seven-year-old bug-collecting brother, Billy, is one of them (although he talks nonsense ninety-nine per cent of the time – and the other one per cent? Utter nonsense). Dad, who delivers fish from The Codfather van, is another. Mainly he talks about haddock but I can live with that. Ibiza Nana, she’s my grandma and she always rings for a chat from Spain. And then there’s Pearl, Dad’s girlfriend, I talk to her a lot and Pearl’s good at listening. Plus, she gives great hugs and tells us she loves us to the moon and back, which is at least 768,800 km of love. I know this because Billy made me check. In fact, Pearl’s almost a mum to Billy and me. I say “almost” because the one important person in my life who I don’t get to talk to at all is my real mum.
My mum died when I was four. Not being able to talk to her is the hardest thing. Harder than trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. I don’t remember a lot about when Mum died but I know she went off to hospital to have Billy and she never came back. And I never said goodbye to her. Okay, being totally truthful, at the time I didn’t think saying goodbye was all that important. I mean, you’re four and it’s just a word, like “farm” or “zoo” or “dog”. But now, at this very moment, I’m thinking “goodbye” is the most important word of all.
You only have to read the extract above to get a fine idea of The Boy who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair ‘s strengths. It’s funny, has a main character you utterly believe in and grow to care about – and it has lots of heart.
Some of the funniest moments come from the two brothers’ rather different views on things that happen. I won’t give spoilers but the snail on the cover is involved – more than once. There are some ridiculously daft yet credible misunderstandings that add to the fun too.
Unsurprisingly, a fair amount of sadness and loss comes into the tale – but always sweetened with deep affection shown by Becket’s family and friends. There is (at least) one hold-your-chest-and-worry moment – but the ending is satisfying and optimistic
This is a big-hearted family read – the sort that sits well alongside Frank Cottrell Boyce’s work. The design of the book is pleasing – and the instructions for paper cranes ( I promise that does make sense in the end) do work.
Ideal for a capable reader from 8 or so who enjoys family, friends, a little bit of heartbreak, silly humour and laughing at the daft antics of grown-ups. Watch out for Lara’s other books: A Boy called Hope and Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy.