Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem

By Mac Barnett; Adam Rex (Illustrator)
(Disney-Hyperion, Hardcover, 9780786849581, 48pp.)

Publication Date: June 3, 2009

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Summer 2009 Kids' List
“When Billy doesn't clean his room yet again, his mom finally makes good on her threat and buys him a pet ... whale! With laugh-out-loud moments on every page, kids are sure to want to read this one again and again.”
-- Shannon Grant, Books Inc., San Francisco, CA


Description

A blue whale is longer than thirty dogs lined up nose to tail. Its tongue weighs as much as four hundred cats. Blue whales make terrible pets....Just ask Billy Twitters.




About the Author

Mac Barnett is a writer living in Los Angeles, CA. He's also the Executive Director of 826LA, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center, and founder of the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, a convenience store for time travelers (seriously). Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem is his first picture book.


Adam Rex (www.adamrex.com) is the New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich. His other books include Pssst!, The True Meaning of Smekday, The Dirty Cowboy (written by Amy Timberlake) and the Lucy Rose series (written by Katy Kelly). He lives in Philadelphia.




Praise For Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem

When his parents threaten to teach him responsibility by giving him a whale, Billy Twitters isn't worried: "It's not like you can just have one delivered to your house overnight." But he's wrong. Rex's (Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich) howler of a double-page spread shows an enormous trailer attached to a "FedUp" truck, an equally massive blue whale suspended from tow straps. Rex's Mad magazine style artwork-realistic enough to drive home the humor and full of clever touches-is the perfect choice for Barnett's high-concept debut. Billy hauls the whale to school behind his bike, a skateboard under the creature for easier sliding; confronts the school bully and the school geek (new allies, in league against him); and struggles with blue whale upkeep, like collecting 10,000 gallons of seawater at mealtime ("Try the ocean, son," his father suggests). Billy never names his whale-it's more of a burden than a pet. The abrupt ending disappoints somewhat, given the uproarious pages that precede it (the contributors also work in scientific information about blue whales-though readers, between laughs, may not notice). Still, tons of fun.—PW

Readers know what kind of place they are in when the endpapers include ads for giant-squid repellent and shrimp-of-the-month club and the author and illustrator snark at each other in the dedication. Billy Twitters's room looks much as one might expect: unmade bed, piles of dirty and clean clothes, video games, books, backpack and stuffed toys everywhere. Billy's mom tells him plainly that he's to clean up his room and finish his dinner or "we're buying you a blue whale." He doesn't, and they do. While Rex never reveals the faces of the adults, he does provide nicely detailed diagrams of the size and habits of the blue whale (from FedUp, "Delivering Punishment Worldwide"). Billy has to take his whale everywhere, even though the whale kind of wrecks the classroom and moves Alexis to un-invite Billy and the whale to her pool party. However, the prospect of feeding his whale inspires Billy to a damp and fishy but very boylike solution to the problem of both room-cleaning and whale-sitting. Definitely funny and slyly subversive.—Kirkus

A headlong plunge into surrealism ensues when Billy Twitters's parents punish him by giving him a blue whale. The cleverness is in the idea's literal-mindedness--Billy thinking "I feel like something's watching me" as he eats his cereal, one very large eye visible behind him, and then hauling the whale to school on his bicycle. It's not supposed to make sense, and, amusingly, it doesn't.—NYTBR

Billy Twitters's parents don't mess around when doling out punishments. When the boy fails to clean his room, brush his teeth, and finish his baked peas, they buy him a blue whale. It arrives via FedUp (motto: "Delivering Punishment Worldwide"), and it's up to Billy to take care of it. Rex's goofy illustrations blend the realistic with the fantastic, as in a giant wordless spread of Billy pedaling furiously on his bike, towing the whale behind on a skateboard as the beast's bulk takes out telephone poles and traffic lights. At school, things don't improve; a teacher gives a whale lecture instead of showing a promised cowboy movie, and Billy is uninvited from a pool party when the hostess learns he would have to bring the cetacean. And he soon finds that gathering thousands of krill for its dinner is tough work. At last, after cleaning out the whale's stinky mouth, Billy decides that it's a pretty peaceful place, and he decides to move in. That's a strange ending for an odd story, but young readers will likely enjoy the ridiculous premise, and the many whale facts worked seamlessly into the tale. Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD—SLJ

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