Up to Something
EK Books, 2019
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
A sign on the door of the hardware store catches Billy’s eye – it’s for a great billycart race.! It doesn’t matter that Billy doesn’t have a billycart because he has heard his Dad banging, drilling and sawing in his shed so many times that he is excited about what they could build together.
He is even more excited when his Dad agrees and they begin work together. But excitement turns to disappointment when his dad appoints him as his “special helper” fetching and carrying the tools and materials, rather than using them. And even though he gets promoted to “assistant” because it sounds more important, the duties don’t change and Billy is soon bored with menial tasks like sweeping his dad gets him to do. He had dreams of them working side by side building something magnificent together. But as he sweeps he has an idea and while Dad is busy measuring and sawing, Billy is doing the same…
Billy’s story is that of so many youngsters – wanting to get in and be like their dads but being assigned to the sidelines – that it will resonate with young readers who are more interested in making and doing than watching. Lonergan’s gentle illustrations that are so rich in detail echo the relationship between Billy and his dad offering a story that could be a lesson for dads about not underestimating the talents and skills of their offspring.
From a STEM perspective there is plenty of scope to explore creating plans for billycarts, but if readers look carefully at the elements of Billy’s cart they might be encouraged to look at everyday objects differently. What else could a laundry basket or an old pair of roller skates become? Lots of scope for creative thinking embedded in a story that is just a joy to read in itself.