Twelve-year-old Rodney lived in Frogmore, an ordinary country town in northern New South Wales. He lived in a modest, two-storey house in Cane Toad Crescent. He had his own room, a stereo, a TV, a DVD player, piles of books and a computer with Internet access. He was in his final year at Frogmore Primary , an ordinary school. He had two ordinary parents, lived in an ordinary house in an ordinary street. Why, then, was something extraordinary happening to him?
Rodney Rowbottom is being bullied. Ben and his cohorts chase him to school and make his life miserable. His father ignores him, his mother babies him. Then Rodney begins to fade. He meets Mrs Strangeways who teaches him how to become invisible. Now he can travel to alternate worlds, Llandringodd and Llondieval. Both are terrifying. One world shows the perils of science unchecked with walking weeds and soul-less clones, while the other is a primitive and barbaric (and very smelly) place where cruelty is a spectator sport. Rodney discovers others affected by bullying of small and much larger scale. Travelling between these two worlds and his own, Rodney meets friends and foes and almost inadvertently discovers the solution to his own bullying experience.
The Boy Who Disappeared gives away little in its title. The front cover shows Rodney being pursued by weeds in an otherwise desolate landscape. Immediately, the reader is asked to speculate on the fate of this twelve-year-old boy. Rodney learns skills that help him find his own way. Around every corner is another corner as Wendy Milton’s story twists and turns back on itself. Each time the outcome seems inevitable, the story goes off on another tangent, building tension further. There are parallels between Rodney’s ‘home’ world and Llandringodd, showing the effect when science and commercial interests are not moderated by ethics. The other world, Llondieval, shows the peasants fearful and starving, while the rich feast. Rodney’s adventures in both worlds contribute to solving his problems in his own world. A rich and satisfying read, recommended for upper primary readers.
The Boy Who Disappeared, by Wendy Milton
Lothian Books 2006