Billy And The Epic Escape

Billy And The Epic Escape

Billy And The Epic Escape











Billy And The Epic Escape

Jamie Oliver

Puffin, 2024

416pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Billy and his best friends Anna, Jimmy and Andy are looking forward to a summer exploring Waterfall Woods, discovering more about the magical creatures who live there and the Rhythm of nature, the beat that keeps nature in harmony and keeps their world, and ours, in balance.

Then the woods come under attack from a mysterious red lady, forcing the sprites and brothers Wilfred and BiIfred into hiding, and the gang rush to the rescue! But what does the red lady really want? Could she be connected to Bilfred’s disappearance all those years ago? And, if so, how is it possible she looks exactly the same decades later. . .

Can Billy and his friends uncover the truth and stop the red lady’s plans, before the Rhythm is put in danger once again?

The sequel to Billy and the Great Adventure, this is an adventure fantasy, a genre popular with many young readers as they see themselves in the role of the hero conquering evil and saving their family, friends and even the world.  But what I love most about the series is that author Jamie Oliver has been deeply involved in its production using his own childhood experiences of having difficulty processing text and so it is formatted to be accessible to those with dyslexia as he is.  The print edition is in a sans serif font while the audio version has state-of-the-art sound effects, multiple voices including narration by the author so that the characters and situations are brought to life in “a fully immersive experience”. But apart from those physical concessions, at its heart this is an engaging, entertaining tale for all readers who enjoy these sorts of adventures. 

How children learn to read has been the subject of research and pedagogical debate for decades – in fact, a century when one considers the breakthrough works of Sylvia Ashton Warner – and clearly, if there were one approach that was the silver bullet for all children, it would have been identified by now.  But as factions and their fads wax and wane, there are kids who fall through the cracks as the favoured method does not meet their needs, and so there are many who get to be 8,9, and 10 for whom reading is a chore, who see and label themselves as failures already, and for whom the school experience becomes a negative to be endured with all the implications of that  Thus, any book that identifies and then caters to the needs of these children gets a big thumbs-up from me.  To add to the positivity, is the fact that the author is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and it is so easy to find stuff by and about him that he can be held as a role model for these students with their fragile self-esteem.  Not only has he made a successful, high-profile career from cookery but even with his reading difficulties he has written two books – so if he can do that, what can they do?

They can start by enjoying an action-packed adventure that carries them along at a fast clip and enables them to join in discussions with their friends so they too can be part of something they felt excluded from.  And having achieved that success, who knows…. 

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