Monday, April 22, 2019


By William Joyce

(Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015)

Admittedly, I'm torn when I see books like this. Boogers, captains in underpants, farting dogs...not my thing. But then again, I wasn't the kind of kid who chugged root beer on a quest for the biggest belch. This book isn't for me.

And that's okay. It has an audience. I can see boys doing a double-take when they see the title. Did Mrs. Read really get this book for our library?! Yes, BILLY'S BOOGER will be one of the popular books in circulation. Because boogers are gross and hysterical (and apparently tasty according to four finger-active classmates).

BILLY'S BOOGER: A MEMOIR portrays Billy (author William Joyce's younger, fourth-grade self) as a creative boy who makes mashed potato-pea towers on his plate and does best with "invented" sports at school. The accompanying '50s-retro illustration shows a focused Billy, wearing flippers, a golf bag and holding a ping pong paddle in his mouth, ready to swing an oversized racket at a pitched pineapple. It doesn't jive with his P.E. teacher.

Things are worse with other subjects. Math is a special challenge. When the school announces a book contest, Billy gets excited. Here's a chance to channel his imagination. At this point, Joyce creates a smaller book within the book, younger Billy's booger book, complete with more primitive comic-style drawing, hand-print font and invented spelling. (Personally, I'd have called the book "Billy's Boogers" and given larger roles to other boogers. Why not go big?)

SPOILER ALERT: Billy's book doesn't win. Not even close. But, when the librarian puts the entries into library circulation, Billy's is most popular.

This echoes what I felt as a kid. The books with award stickers were the ones to avoid. They were the ones the librarians oohed and aahed over, the ones that made me restless with boredom. The really good books--the ones my boy group clustered around--never had silver-ribbon stickers.

So let a new generation of boys revel in BILLY'S BOOGER. Let them snicker as they take turns checking it out. Let them be amused when they take it home and proudly show it to tsk-tsking parents. Yes, it's a book and it's reading. Go with it.

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