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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Billy's Booger: a memoir (sorta), written and illustrated by William Joyce and his younger self. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster. 2015. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"Billy liked the principal. He got sent to him all the time. Especially during the science fair. He called Billy "one of my most challenging students ever." So the day the winners were announced, Billy was pretty excited. But ...  He didn't win first place. He didn't win second place."

Not all kids who come to our schools will fit the established mode of learning. If you teach, you know that the first day of school. If you have raised children, you will be aware that children who are reared in the same environment with a similar upbringing can be remarkably different from one another. In terms of creativity, Billy does not fit what is 'normal' in his school. This results in conflict - with classmates, with his teachers, and with Principal Blisterbaum.

Billy likes the comics that come in the Sunday paper more than math, he likes invented sports rather than traditional ones. Notes are often sent home from school explaining to his parents that their son is prone to odd behaviors. His family is well aware! It isn't until the school librarian announces a creative writing contest that Billy begins to see the value in school work. Armed with a towering pile of books, he researches numerous subjects and settles into writing his entry for the contest.

It is called Billy's Booger - readers will find a reasonable facsimile of it inserted in the middle of this memoir by acclaimed author William Joyce. The small book is also a memoir -'of a little green nose buddy', and it is sure to delight those who fall under its spell. The booger explains that it had been a normal one inside Billy's nose until a chance meeting with a meteorite caused Billy to sneeze him out. Much to his delight, he made the discovery that he had very special math powers: not only that, so did Billy!

The results to the contest are disheartening, to say the least. Billy wins nothing; it's enough to make him emulate his 'normal' classmates. Going back to the library, with his borrowed books in tow, he makes a happy discovery. It sets him on a new life path - and we are the lucky recipients of that decision. Today, we have the opportunity to share all of the terrific books that William Joyce creates for our reading pleasure!

Once you read both 'memoirs', you will want to go back and spend the time needed to really appreciate the art. If you know his other books, you will surely recognize Mr. Joyce's incomparable style. You will hoot while reading the front endpapers, the title page and front matter that give you a sense of Billy's character, and of his life story. That quick glimpse will send you straight to the back to see if those endpapers are the same - they are not! In between,  you will pore over each spread with heightened interest before getting your chance to read his original 4th grade story. There is much to admire here!

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