Title: The Barnabus Project
Author & Illustrator: The Fan Brothers
Published: October 2020
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s
Readership: Children’s Picturebook
I received a copy of The Barnabus Project from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
In a world built for Perfect Pets, Barnabus is a Failed Project, half mouse, half elephant, kept out of sight until his dreams of freedom lead him and his misfit friends on a perilous adventure. A stunning picture book from international bestsellers The Fan Brothers, joined by their brother Devin Fan.
Deep underground beneath Perfect Pets, where children can buy genetically engineered “perfect” creatures, there is a secret lab. Barnabus and his friends live in this lab, but none of them is perfect. They are all Failed Projects. Barnabus has never been outside his tiny bell jar, yet he dreams of one day seeing the world above ground that his pal Pip the cockroach has told him about: a world with green hills and trees, and buildings that reach all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars. But Barnabus may have to reach the outside world sooner than he thought, because the Green Rubber Suits are about to recycle all Failed Projects . . . and Barnabus doesn’t want to be made into a fluffier pet with bigger eyes. He just wants to be himself. So he decides it’s time for he and the others to escape. With his little trunk and a lot of cooperation and courage, Barnabus sets out to find freedom — and a place where he and his friends can finally be accepted for who they are.
This suspenseful, poignant and magical story about following your dreams and finding where you truly belong will draw readers into a surreal, lushly detailed world in which perfection really means being true to yourself and your friends.
There’s something striking about the front cover of The Barnabus Project – a tiny elephant-mouse trapped in a glass bell-jar. In many ways, it evokes memories of The Once and Only Ivan for me, and I knew it would be a picture book that would be very thought-provoking, especially once you read the premise.
Barnabus is a Failed Experiment, and he lives with all the other Failed Experiments in a basement. Humans have tried to create the ‘perfect’ pets made from different animal traits and then mass-produced for a consumer market. Despite having never lived anywhere except his glass jar, Barnabus dreams of seeing the world outside, and what follows is a leap of faith and adventure that sees Barnabus and the other Failed Experiments leaving their home and finding a new one.
There’s a lot to be said for this book.
The story is beautifully illustrated – the characters are drawn with whimsy and heart, and there’s an instant connection between the reader and the so-called Failed Experiments who are delightfully weird, wonderful and unique. Shadows and light are used to highlight the different parts of the story.
The narrative itself is also gorgeous as we learn of Barnabus’ efforts to escape his glass prison. The Fan’s use a variety of sentence simple and complex sentence that lend a rhythm to the reading, as well as making this book a page-turner. It’s easy to identify that the theme is one of celebrating the uniqueness of each individual, and would offer great talking points with children.
Overall, it was just a beautiful book to read!