Billy's Booger

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Billy's Booger Book Poster Image
Funny, gross picture book packs positive messages.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Images of Billy tottering under a Jenga-like stack of books on "meteors, mythology, space travel, and mucus" suggest to young readers the things they can explore at the library. The book is full of mid-20th-century period detail, from Billy's fondness for the "funny papers" to his mom's cat's-eye eyeglass frames and beehive hairdo.

Positive Messages

All your inspiration and hard work may not get the result you were hoping for -- but it can change your life for the better anyway. Imagination may get you into trouble sometimes, but it's important just the same.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Besides the determined, imaginative Billy, who spares no effort in researching, writing, and illustrating his snot-based hero's saga, tha adults really shine: the long-suffering principal, who regards Billy as his "most challenging student" and tries to find creative outlets for him; the kind, helpful librarian; and, most of all, Billy's supportive parents, who respond to irate notes from his teacher about his loony exploits with "Ahh! You should see the stuff he does at home!"

Violence & Scariness
Language

As you might expect from the title, Billy's Booger contains numerous references to boogers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, as the title suggests, Billy's Booger includes a lot about nasal secretions in all their forms, with gross humor galore to tickle the funny bone of young readers, especially boys. But this picture-book memoir by noted author-illustrator William Joyce about the fateful book he wrote in fourth grade (included) and its hero (Billy's "little green buddy") has a lot more going for it, from the funny, detailed illustrations of life in the mid-20th century to the exhausted but supportive adults who find different ways to offer encouragement. There's also a positive message that you might not get the result you're hoping for, but something even cooler could happen.

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What's the story?

Many years ago, when kids run around outdoors all day instead of going on playdates and read the funny papers on Sunday, an imaginative fourth-grader named Billy always tries to make life less boring: inventing new games in P.E., drawing interesting creatures on his math homework, building strange creations. When the principal announces a contest for books written by the students, Billy goes all out, combining his many interests into an epic tale about the "little green buddy" who flies out of his nose and turns out to have many superpowers.

Is it any good?

Fans of William Joyce's work will be in heaven here, as the prolific, sweetly zany author-illustrator reveals how it all began back in the fourth grade. BILLY'S BOOGER has enough examination of mucus to delight any young gross-out enthusiast, but the backstory -- about how Billy's wild imagination, subtly encouraged and supported by kind adults, leads him to adventures and an awesome career -- quietly will inspire many young readers and open their eyes to intriguing possibilities. Joyce's appealing illustrations bring Billy, his family and friends, his era, and his wacky contraptions to life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about imagination. Do you think being able to dream up all kinds of crazy stuff is the best thing ever or nothing but trouble?

  • Have you been to a library? Did a librarian help you find a book you liked, or did you already know what book you wanted when you went there?

  • Does your school have a contest for books written by the students? Do you wish it did? What kind of book would you write if you had a chance?

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