Meet the oddly unflappable Marshall Armstrong
Any boy who turns up on their first day of school sporting a straw boater and a yellow-and-lime-green striped blazer is bound to turn a few heads. And just a quick glance at the extraordinary array of equipment Marshall Armstrong sets out on his desk – propelling pencil, mechanical compass, three-sided drafter’s ruler – shows that he’s no ordinary boy. The book’s narrator, an everyman type who sits next to Marshall, is irked by such oddities. But Marshall? “He’s happy in his own skin and just gets on with it,” says his creator David Mackintosh. “He doesn’t mind being different one bit.” The fact that he shares a surname with the famous first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, is no coincidence. “I’ve always been intrigued by Neil Armstrong,” says David. “When he got back from the moon landing, there was this expectation that he would be waxing lyrical about the event, but for the most part he just got on with ordinary life.” Marshall’s lunch – which consists of silver-wrapped space food – is a nod to the astronaut, whose down-to-earth demeanour he shares.
Standing out is something author David can relate to. “My father is Glaswegian and my mother is from Northern Ireland,” he says. “We moved to Australia when I was a baby and when other children came round our house they couldn’t understand what my parents were saying to them. After they’d left the room, they’d turn to me and ask what on earth my parents had said.”
As you can imagine, the narrator is not best pleased to be invited to Marshall’s birthday party, but he’s in
for a pleasant surprise… One frenzied afternoon of stilt-walking, billiard-playing and fireman’s pole-sliding
later (plus a party bag of cool treats) and what do you know – that reluctant party guest has had a change of heart. “It’s a story about that endless ability children have to adapt and ultimately accept,” says David. “Differences are good.”
Marshall Armstrong Is New To Our School by David Mackintosh (HarperCollins £10.99), 3+
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