Billy Bramble and The Great Big Cook Off ISBN: 9781849056632
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016
Billy Bramble is almost twelve, lovable, overactive (possible ADHD), full of humour, but, oh boy, does he have problems. His main problem is his dog called Gobber, but Gobber is no ordinary dog. No one but Billy can see him and he is extremely unpleasant. This is not a cuddly, happy dog; Gobber 'is a big, solid, dirty grey, hungry animal with yellow eyes that flash red when he's angry. He gets angry a lot.' And this is the nub of Billy's problem. It is Billy who gets uncontrollably angry, who is sent out of class for causing trouble, who is constantly in the 'trouble room', and whose parents get green letters telling them about his latest bout. He tries hard, does Billy, but every time something happens that makes him cross, Gobber appears and takes over. Gobber is the reason for all of Billy's bad luck. It is not as though Billy has unsupportive parents or teachers who are awful to him. One of the latter is very nice and helps him a lot, but he finds it hard to accept help, and his inability to help himself means his self-esteem is at an all-time low. Comforts are his chicken, Facebook, and his cat, Hungry Bungry, who accept him as he is, and his parents try very hard too. It isn't easy to find humour in a situation such as Billy's, but the style of writing (in the first person by Billy himself) and the often comic problems Billy has, make for an often laugh-out-loud read while also feeling terribly sad for our hero. The Great Big Cook Off is his salvation, of course, and this reader knew early on that Billy would win. A combination of his parents' loving support, his understanding teacher's help, and his growing knowledge that Gobber can be defeated, bring about the desired and inevitable conclusion. Billy has a long way to go in his fight for self-esteem and his battle against anger, but he has made a good start, and with help will survive nicely. I loved this book. It is full of warmth and perspective. as well as humour, and Billy has a lot going for him. Well written with lots of charming, funny black and white illustrations, the book will be enjoyed immensely by children of different ages, particularly by those who feel themselves different and out of the main stream. Read and enjoy! Available from Amazon, from good book shops, and from the publisher: www.jkp.com.