Review Blog

Jan 16 2012

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean Telt by Hisself by David Almond

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Puffin Books, 2011. ISBN 9780670921096. 255 pages.
Senior Fiction. This is the story of Billy Dean brought into the world on a day of death and destruction and kept in a room for 13 years, protected from the world outside by his nurturing mother. He is visited occasionally by Wilfred, his violently unpredictable father, who wishes to teach Billy how to read and write. Bringing to the boy his own confused interpretation of the world outside, this learning process for Billy is demanding and throws his tiny world into disarray, though he tries to please his father as best he can. When Wilfred disappears, after almost killing his son, Billy's mother brings him out of the room and, with the help of two neighbours, he is introduced to the world outside. Billy Dean is considered an angel child, a mystical, Christ-like figure who has the power to help and heal. He is preyed upon for this reason, as this world is full of sickness and suffering and looks to someone for salvation.
This immediate world is a monstrous place and it takes time for Billy to realise this.
We are reading Billy's story; the book that he is learning to write as he pieces his life together.
This is an extraordinary tale, multi-layered and suspenseful, with unforgettable characters. David Almond explores what can happen to an innocent boy, when dramatic events take hold of a community, engulfing it in devastation and violence.
The title has been marketed as Almond's first adult novel but the publishers obviously intend the book to be read by children as well. Reading this book takes time and considerable concentration, as it is written in phonetic prose.
With its post-apocalyptic theme, there is much to discuss for senior students. Comparisons can be drawn with the novel, Room by Emma Donoghue.
Julie Wells

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