Saturday 21 September 2019

Billy Brown's royal adventure

Children's: How Billy Brown Saved the Queen, Alison Healy, Little Island €9.00

How Billy Brown saved the Queen
How Billy Brown saved the Queen

Anne Cunningham

Billy Brown, who is nine years old, is very good at school and excellent at maths, but bad at sports and athletics. He wishes it were the other way round. "Who wants to be good at school?" he asks. "Absolutely nobody. That's who. And who wants to be nobody? Definitely not me."

He's soon to be the envy of everyone, however, when through a series of fortuitous events he ends up explaining fractions to the Queen. (Not Elizabeth, but the fictional Queen Alicia. Who speaks very like Elizabeth.) So taken is Queen Alicia with Billy's mathematical aptitude, she awards him a special medal of honour. It's very large and very precious. Billy's medal is put on public display and then it disappears. Who could commit such a dastardly deed?

Enter Billy's very old gran (who's 59). She's just an ordinary granny who makes great apple tarts, but she used to be a spy and still does the odd spying job. She believes she knows who stole the medal, although Billy's parents think she's wrong. Word comes from the palace that the Queen wants to help in their frantic medal search. She also wants to stay in Billy's house. Billy's father attempts to reassure his family that everything will be OK. "It's just like having a friend coming to stay, but 1,000 times more stressful." Indeed. Wasting no time, Billy's folks swing into action. The house is spruced up and large stockpiles of chocolate biscuits (the Queen's favourites) are procured. Gran is set to work baking "industrial quantities" of apple tarts.

Will the Queen find the medal? And how will she cope, staying in Billy's humble, ordinary home? Are gran's suspicions proven right? This delightful book reads like a mashup of Sue Townsend's hilarious The Queen and I with bits of Roddy Doyle's Rover Trilogy. And although it's lighthearted, it has an important message for kids who feel "different" and for those who are hopeless at sports. Generously sprinkled with gorgeous illustrations by Fintan Taite.

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