Review Blog

May 15 2014

Brilliant by Roddy Doyle

cover image

Macmillan Children's Books, 2014. ISBN 9781447248804.
(Age: Middle primary) Depression. Dogs. Magic. Supernatural. The prologue of Brilliant creates the atmosphere of this story. The animals can talk and the sense of foreboding is established as the 'black dog' of the recession threatens to destroy the 'funny bone' of Dublin. That this is to be a quest to destroy the evil of the black dog is confirmed and 'Only the city's kids could do that.'
The reader is then introduced to the Kelly family, in particular Gloria and Rayzer (Raymond) who like to creep down at night and hide under the kitchen table and listen to the adult chat. However when the chatting turns to mumbling they know something is wrong, 'mumbling was different.' The coming of Uncle Ben to live with them and his subsequent depression is the signal for the brother and sister to act! And off they start on their quest.
The black dog comes in the shape of a menacing cloud which tries to lure them into what they fear might be a trap, but facing their fears they carry on anyway. Along the way they are joined by other children of the city who also have personal reasons to eradicate the black dog. All in one night the gang race across Dublin pursuing the grey cloud of dog. Some suspense is created when the depression threatens to overcome them, but through the magical use of the word 'BRILLIANT' they are able to continue their quest.
Doyle has created a simple fantasy with its feet in reality. Its strength lies both in this simplicity and the humour of the talking animals, which is particularly appealing as the children race through the zoo.
Brilliant may appeal to the middle primary sector but lacks the substantial hazards which are prominent in better stories of this genre.
Barb Rye

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