Described by Kate Kellaway, The Observer:
When one compares Peter Carey’s first novel for children, The Big Bazoohley, with his adult fiction (Oscar and Lucinda, Illywhacker, The Tax Inspector, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, among others) the family likeness is immediately apparent. His writing is miraculous with an almost astigmatic enchantment. You have to look twice when reading Carey. But while his adult books often end in darkness and curdled pessimism, in The Big Bazoohley, Carey gives his imagination permission to hope. It is as if he had put down a suitcase of special effects and picked up a light wand.
He has the makings of a classic writer for children. He does not patronise them; he sees the ways in which they are patronised by the world. Sam is almost world weary and much more responsible than his useless fly-by-night parents. His father is a compulsive gambler, pursuing the ‘big bazoohley’ ” the jackpot to end all jackpots ” with terrible zeal. His mother is beautiful and impractical. She paints miniatures that show entire cities and even include ‘the fluff under the beds’ or a ‘ruby ring in a secret drawer’.
Sam finds himself staying in a forbiddingly expensive hotel with his parents, who are gambling on being able to sell one of his mother’s miniatures. They fail to find the big spender who might like to buy something little, and what follows is a crazy hotel odyssey in which Sam winds up in the clutches of a peculiar pair of opportunists hell bent on winning the ‘Perfecto shampoo’ competition. They seize upon Sam as if on some lost guinea pig and groom him ruthlessly, scrubbing his face raw, washing his hair in a harrowing fashion and drilling him in the art of eating spaghetti decorously.
Will he win the competition? How will he cope with the ” beautifully described ” array of strange dancing partners in ‘strapless ball gowns made of organza, tight sheaths covered with shining sequins, dance dresses shaped like big Icelandic poppies’, when he does not know how to dance? The joy of the story is that in the end ” without giving it away ” a human magic operates against all the odds, and shows that the only predictable thing about life is its marvellous, mutinous unpredictability.