Friday, July 23, 2021

Guy Friday- The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh

Rutter, Helen. The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh
August 3rd 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Billy Plimpton is very concerned about starting middle school at Bannerdale, since most of his friends are going to Hillside. While Billy doesn't mind having to wear a jacket with his uniform instead of a sweater (this is a British book!), he is concerned that since he won't know many people, they will make fun of his stutter. Billy spends a lot of time thinking about his stutter, especially since his dream is to be a stand up comic, but he doesn't feel comfortable performing for anyone but his Granny Bread. He does attend speech therapy, and is always trying to find ways to "cure" his stutter, such as special tea, classes, or relaxation techniques. For the first few days of school, he manages to hide his stutter, but when there is a class show and tell assignment, he desperately wants out of it. Unfortunately, his teacher is concerned that he hasn't been talking, and calls his mother, who always thinks that Billy should just try harder and not care what people think. Billy comes up with a clever way to address Show and Tell, and most of his classmates, like Shyla, who attended primary school with him, are supportive. Some, like William Blakemore, are not, and tease him mercilessly. The teacher has some good ideas, and invites Billy to a music group, where he learns to play the drums. He flirts with the idea of doing his stand up routine in the talent show, especially since he promised his grandmother she would get to see him perform, but when Granny Bread becomes ill, he decides to participate with his band instead. His band consists of some of his new friends, so when he is approached to drum for a high school group and accepts, this causes some rifts. Skyla is a good ally, but has problems in her own life. With so much going on around him, will Billy finally decide to work around his stutter instead of letting it get in his way?
Strengths: I can't think of any middle grade books that address speech problems, so it's great to hear what Billy's difficulties are and how he addresses them. The dynamic in the classroom, and the steps that his teacher takes to help him are interesting, as is his work with the therapist. His family is close and supportive, but also (in true middle grade way) a little annoying, except for his grandmother. Their close relationship was wonderful to see. There's plenty going on, and the general attitude is fairly upbeat, with occasional lapses into dramatic tween histrionics. Reader's who like Patterson's I Funny will appreciate Billy's love of stand up. 
Weaknesses: This read like an older title in some respects; Billy's reaction to Show and Tell is akin to Blume's Deenie's fit about wearing her back brace, and his attempt at running away made me realize that's not something tweens try lightly anymore. It's also rather British, and it would have helped to somehow indicate the specific setting so that readers aren't confused by the school uniforms.
What I really think: This had the upbeat feel of Pichon's Tom Gates and Berger's Lyttle Lies, and was not too dissimilar from the work of Jacqueline Wilson, who blurbed this. I'm an absolute pushover for books set in England so will purchase this. It would be good to see more lower middle grade books with characters involved in speech therapy. 

Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment