Book Reviews

So many books. So little time.

Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett

Talk about BIG problems. Billy Twitters has a blue whale problem. Mac Barnett, the author, very kindly informs his readers that "they're the biggest animals in the world, ever." And illustrator Adam Rex devotes one whole page to illustrating that astounding fact.

There is the blue whale in all its massive glory. For comparison, a picture of a 1973 Plymouth LS and aquanaut Jaques Cousteau dressed in his diving gear, which makes a person look bigger. Big car, padded human, but still but a tiny blimp beside the blue whale.

Children love facts. They can eat facts for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And this book abounds in them. Facts, riding on the back of a quirky story. With quirky illustrations.

Billy Twitter's Mom gives him an ultimatum. Clean up your room or else....If Billy Twitters does not

      1. clean his room

      2. brush his teeth

      3. finish the baked peas

his Mom will buy him a blue whale. Seriously now?

"But I'm not worried," Billy Twitters says. "See, I know a thing or two about blue whales. I mean, they're the biggest animals in the world, ever. It's not like you can just have one delivered to your house overnight."

Don’t be too sure, reader. Turn the page. A two-page spread of a huge wooden packing case riding on a truck–a FedUp (what does this bring to mind?) truck! Delivering Punishment Worldwide, is their motto. Santa brings goodies to deserving children, the FedUp trucking company delivers punishment. The very idea of a punishment-delivering company!! Wonderful, wonderful illustrations.

Just like that, a the blue whale arrives at Billy’s front door, as PUNISHMENT. Turn the page, twice. Another double-page spread. This shows Billy pedaling up one of San Francisco's hilly roads, towing the blue whale on his skateboard! a look of absolute determination on his face, no matter the danger to the roadside sign and lamp pole and traffic light strung up high.

Totally unfazed. Billy tries to HIDE the whale at school, but the teacher notices him.

"Oh my," he says. "Bless my barnacles. A Balaenoptera musculus! Oh, Billy, you must bring this fabulous creature into our classroom!"

We learn a lot of interesting facts along the way. Billy learns too. He learns that the blue whale is HIS problem and his responsibility. His classmates would rather have watched the cowboy movie. A dinosaur would have been more exciting. He is uninvited from the pool party. He is not picked for the kickball team. Dad is busy with the newspaper and TV.

And so Billy does what any sensible person would do–he sets up house inside the blue whale.

"Sometimes the only way to escape from the problems caused by your blue whale is to spend some time inside your blue whale." Indeed.

Title: Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem

Author: Mac Barnett

Illustrator: Adam Rex

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books

Hardback: 36 pages

ISBN: 978-078684958-1