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Monday, January 25, 2016

Willy's Stories, written and illustrated by Anthony Browne. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $21.99 ages 10 and up

"I went through the doors one day and was on a pirate ship, face-to-face with a terrible pirate named Captain Hook! For a long we just stared at each other. Then Hook cleared his throat and said, "Proud and insolent youth, prepare to meet thy doom!" He lunged at me with his sword. I jumped aside, and a terrible fight began."

Willy is a library habituĂ©. Each week finds him walking through two glass-fronted doors where he gives himself up to one adventure after another.

In the first story he tells his audience that a shipwreck has led him to a life alone. What happens (on a Friday) on a desert island, with a dog, and a parrot leads to an amazing discovery ... when he thought he was the only one on the island! Could there be someone else there?

He tells his audience ten tales, each connected to a book he has borrowed from his local library. If you are a reader, you will know exactly the adventure he is describing. If not, it might lead you to find out more. It will certainly entice readers to ask questions that need to be asked, and to make some discoveries for themselves.

In Anthony Browne's deft hand, we encounter new worlds (always with a question to end the tale) to push us further in our thinking about stories. Each of the scenes that accompany the short tales are created to encourage curiosity and wonder. Willy's facial expressions are testament to his feelings as he entertains fascinated readers.

The classic tales (and their singular moments) included are Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Robin Hood, The Tinder Box, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Rapunzel, The Wind in the Willows, and Pinocchio.

It is a unique and lovely way to interest those who may not know the stories to look for them when they next visit the library. If they want to know what happens, they will need to read them or have someone read with them. I think it's perfect fare for more experienced readers who will take up the challenge of finding out more, and perhaps reading them themselves. You might even find that they take a lesson from Mr. Browne and use it as a mentor text for their writing: taking a crucial scene and making it tempting enough to have others read a favorite book.

Each story is faced by a brilliantly imagined piece of art that offers clues for the reader. Books and libraries are the impetus for this terrific new book. Once you have finished reading, be sure that you go back and see how books have pride of place in each of the images.

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