Sunday, September 1, 2019

Review - Whizzy Willow's First Day at School

Whizzy Willow's First Day at School
by Billie Rayatt
illustrated by Gennel Marie Sollano
Date: 2018
Publisher: Xlibris UK
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Whizzy Willow is a young boy, and he can cause mayhem wherever he goes because he loves whizzing around. What obstacles will he encounter on his first day at school?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

What did I just read? It isn't really a standard picture book (it has pages with just text alternating with pages with just illustrations), but it's not a chapter book, either. And it has no plot! Unless you call a disjointed series of boring events that happen during one day a plot. (I don't.)

Whizzy Willow is, inexplicably, a tree. As is his teacher, Mr Oak, who seems to always be bellowing or shouting. He's not angry; he's just loud. Everyone else is human. Even Ms Petal, who sounds like she should be some sort of plant. We have no idea why these tree people are living in the middle of a town full of humans. They just are.

Not that it makes much difference to any part of the story. Whizzy doesn't face any discrimination for being a tree. Nor does he "cause mayhem wherever he goes because he loves whizzing around", as the synopsis claims. He splashes paint at one point, and knocks an owlet out of a tree at another, but he's not doing anything different than the other kids.

Speaking of that owlet... well, let's talk about the writing in this book. It's absolutely awful. I don't think I've ever read a book where the writing was this badly constructed. For the majority of the dialogue, the author insisted putting the punctuation outside of the quotation marks (including one memorable bit of dialogue that had an exclamation point and a comma at the end). There are also some word choices that just aren't quite right, and tons of silent dialogue tags (my biggest pet peeve; you can't "beam" your words... unless you've suddenly developed the power of telepathy). All of these technical problems make the book look really amateurish. Here's an example of the kind of writing that's found all throughout the story:

Mum glimpses over and smiles, "Don't worry, you will be fine. And don't forget your bag", she says.

The illustrations aren't very interesting. But maybe that's just because the story isn't that interesting. No... the story isn't that existent. Literally, it's just Willow doing this thing, then that thing, then that other thing, none of which are very interesting. He eats breakfast. He goes to school. He helps hand out art supplies. He plays at recess and knocks a talking owlet out of its nest... Oh, yeah, about that. The bird changes gender within the same sentence:

Willow swiftly hands her to his mum.

"His mum" refers to the owl, not to Willow's mum. How can you mix up the gender like this? The second reference is literally two words later!

I never learn. A couple of really good self-published picture books have made me let my guard down. Maybe if this book had been more like what the synopsis promised, if it had had an actual story with some conflict and resolution, I would've liked it more.

Then again, the writing is so abysmal that I don't know if the best plot in the world could've saved this one for me. It needs a lot of work before it's ready for the public.

Thank you to NetGalley and Xlibris UK for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 0/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 0/5
Illustrations: 1/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 0.33 out of 5

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