Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Billy Bonkers

'Pinterest' turns out to be a great way to find a day gone whilst having fun kicking cans about the backalleys of the internet. I started my first 'boards' yesterday: 'Style advice from Children's Literature' and 'Food in kids books' are pretty self explanatory but I also had fun with my 'The Real...' board featuring the real Enormous Crocodile, Very Hungry Caterpillar and, of course, Little Wooden Horse amongst others. Let me know what you think I should add to any of them.

'Billy Bonkers' and 'Billy Bonkers 2' by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Nick Sharatt are today's book recommendations for you from Bill and me. Bill would like to be 'The Real' Billy Bonkers come to think of it.

Each book contains three delightfully silly adventures for Billy and his family. It's pretty standard stuff; an every day family situation starts peacefully but then spirals out of control, Mum and Dad Bonkers panic, cool headed sister Betty makes a clever plan and Billy  carries it through, saving the day, lives, the planet and normally getting to eat inordinate amounts of cake and chips at the end. I admire the total maxing out of the silliness though.

In the first story, 'Billy Bonkers and the Great Porridge Incident' for example, Billy eats so many raw porridge oats for breakfast  that he produces enough gas to swell up like a balloon and rise up through the ceiling and the roof of the house. He's only saved from rising further by his unravelling pyjama bottoms tethering him to a tree. Quick thinking Betty works out he needs to burp and uses Mrs. Bonkers' enormous, comfy mummy pants (I recognise these) to fire a gigantic pork pie at Billy to thump him on the back and;

"There was a small pause. Then Billy felt his tummy begin to turn around and around like a washing machine. It churned and wobbled and rumbled and then it happened...
Billy did the most enormous burp the world has ever known. I don't really know how to spell a burp such as this. I couldn't get anywhere near to imitating the sound, but I hope you can imagine the kind of burp that this was. It was the kind of burp that shook houses and that blew birds out of trees."

Are you getting a flavour of why this book might be popular with my 7 year old son? The nice thing is that a lot of slightly formulaic stories would end there but this book then  escalates further to have Billy flying around the sky and then fortuitously making contact with a bunch of robbers in the middle of stealing all the loot from Mrs. Dingleberry's Cake, Sweets, Chocolate and Ice Cream Emporium.

"Not in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that a boy, wearing hardly anything at all except for his sister's frilly pants, would come hurtling towards them at a hundred miles an hour a few inches above the ground and slam right into them, knocking them over as they were trying to escape, and sending money, cakes, sweets, chocolates and ice cream flying about in all directions. But this is exactly what happened."

Billy is given a hero's medal by the police and promised free cake, sweets, chocolates and ice cream by a grateful Mrs. Dingleberry for the rest of his life. And that's just the first story.

I wonder if girls reading these books might start to feel a slight sense of outrage that in every case it is little sister Betty who actually solves the problems. In their defence Bill has made that connection himself. Betty is also the only character who escapes with dignity intact throughout. Girls will hopefully enjoy the fun just as much and swell quietly with their own sense of innate superiority. The Great Gender Divide at Five that seems to be fostered in some publishing divisions bothers me muchly. I just want good books not boys books or girls books.  How about some farting super-pony books or mutant robo-fairies bottling sunbeams?

'Billy Bonkers' written Giles Andreae, illus. Nick Sharratt, pub. Orchard books, isbn 978-1-84616-151-3

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