cover image Silly Billy

Silly Billy

Anthony Browne, . . Candlewick, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3124-6

Browne (Willy the Champ ) here offers another satisfyingly wry take on the trials of childhood. At the tale's center is chronic worrier Billy, whose oversize ears, middle part and festive sweater call to mind Browne's popular chimp, Willy. Billy's nighttime worries emerge in monochromatic framed images with humorous surrealistic flair. As he worries about hats, chapeaux of various styles hover over his bed; when he worries about shoes, a parade of pairs of shoes exits out the window; and water falls from the ceiling and surrounds his bed when he worries about rain. His parents try unsuccessfully to calm Billy's fears. But when his worries keep him awake at his grandma's house (Browne indicates the boy's growing anxiety with a portrait of the boy in bed, dominated by light blue and sepia tones and patterned wallpaper that suggests Rorschach shapes), she comes up with a solution. The wise woman gives him six tiny worry dolls that will "do all the worrying for you while you sleep." This works like a charm—until the earnest lad starts worrying about the worry dolls. The hero inventively solves this problem, and the author wraps up with a note on the significance of worry dolls, which originated in Guatemala. The festive rainbow hues of the dolls' clothing effectively contrast with the somber shades of the art depicting the boy's worries. An entertaining, comforting bedtime read-aloud. Ages 4-7. (Nov.)