Book review: The Unluckiest Boy in the World by Andrew Norriss

The Unluckiest Boy in the World
The Unluckiest Boy in the World

Andrew Norriss is, in fact, The Unluckiest Author in the World. In any sane society a writer who consistently produces such unfailingly delightful books for children would be lauded and applauded, hailed as a national treasure and put before Parliament and Queen as an example of what children’s writing should be like. Instead, we get Michael Morpurgo (I don’t know if you agree, but my children always, always groan when yet another Michael Morpurgo book is dragged out of the cupboard and plopped on their desks at school). It should be Andrew Norris.

What is particularly strange is that not even television, that usual sprinkler of authorial fame and sales, seems to have been able to destroy the curse of forgetting that hangs over Andrew Norriss. ‘Aquila? Wasn’t that on the telly a while back?’ Yes, it was, and normally that should mean huge sales and, at the very least, a publisher eager to publish a whole series of Aquila books. But – and I have this from the author’s wife – Puffin simply aren’t interested! Can you believe that? Despite there being huge mileage in the book (my son and I are desperate to learn more about the Denebians who made Aquila and the Yrrillians with whom they are locked in conflict), a successful TV tie-in, the first book having won the Whitbread Award, and yet Puffin still aren’t interested in publishing Aquila 3. You’re beginning to agree, aren’t you? Andrew Norriss really is the unluckiest writer in the world.

But stop. There’s more. The Brittas Empire. Remember that? Ran in the 1990s with Chris Barrie as he manager of the Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. Andrew Norris co-wrote the first five series (when it was good). Yet, still, despite all these TV accomplishments, his publisher isn’t interested in publishing Aquila 3.

Andrew, I’m beginning to wonder if you unwittingly urinated on to the grave of a mouldering publishing executive, thus incurring his everlasting curse (as happens to the unfortunate hero of The Unluckiest Boy in the World, except in his case it’s not a publishing executive but a dead wizard who curses him). There’s no other explanation why publishers are not queuing up for such graceful, deft and funny stories.

Surely there must be some way of banishing the curse. For Andrew Norriss, while maybe the unluckiest writer in the world, is also, undoubtedly, one of the very best. Read this book, read Aquila, then tell your friends, tell Puffin: we have a treasure amongst us, let us celebrate (and publish!) him!


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