<b>An unusual boy's magical quest</b> Move over, Pinocchio, and make room for Barkbelly, a wooden boy who comes to life in a charming debut novel by Cat Weatherill, a storyteller from Wales. One starry night a beautiful egg made of solid wood falls from a flying machine and lands in the fields of Pumbleditch. Gable Gantry, who discovers the egg during the village harvest, takes the treasure home to show his wife. The childless couple admires the egg, but it is soon forgotten until one bitterly cold night when they throw it on the fire, which causes the heat to release a wooden baby. In a month's time, the wooden boy, dubbed Barkbelly, rivals any 10-year-old in appearance, but exceeds any grown man in strength.

When friendly play with a group of boys leads to a tragic accident, Barkbelly must flee the village and the only family he knows. Making new friends, saving a life and earning a place as a performer in a circus bring unimagined adventures, but they cannot erase the boy's guilt and loneliness. Although his wooden composition keeps him from feeling physical pain, he experiences the same emotions as any human. When he learns that an entire island exists with people just like him, he finds a source of hope.

So Barkbelly's magical odyssey continues. His path remains arduous, as he discovers the horrific treatment of his people and the disappointing truth about his wooden family. It holds wonders, too, as Barkbelly hears of his remarkable ancestors and the unusual way his race lives and grows. Despite meeting his wooden clan, he cannot forget his obligations to the village that first raised him and his love for the Gantrys, his real family.

Combining traditional storytelling with her own inventions, Weatherill crafts an exquisite tale that explores truth, redemption, courage and belonging. Complementing the narrative are Peter Brown's striking black-and-white illustrations, which help set the mood for the wooden boy's travels.

<b>Barkbelly</b> is a novel that begs not only to be read, but to be read aloud. Children, enthralled by its magic, will be reading it for years to come.

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