CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 21 . . . . June 20, 2003
Nette Hilton's main character, William, in Watch Out, William! is just learning how to ride a two-wheeler bicycle. He cautiously practices walking it in his backyard and then riding on the sidewalk by the corner store, but he is very nervous to ride it all the way to school. William decides to walk his bike to school and after class is encouraged by his teacher to ride home. Unfortunately, William's tire hits a rock, and he ends up in a cattle truck. Once again, he sets off but is so busy watching for rocks/trucks he travels in the wrong direction.
At the same time, Ms. Peach and her baby, Imogen, are stopped at the top of the hill talking to a friend. Baby Imogen bounces too hard in her stroller causing it to roll down a steep hill. As Imogen races down the sidewalk, William races down the road beside her, both unable to stop. At one point, William's shoelace becomes stuck in the side of the stroller, and he realizes he must stop them both. Remembering how he stopped last time, William steers them up the ramp of a bakery truck and saves the day. William is a hero for saving baby Imogen, and he gains confidence as a cyclist.
As a title in the “Solo Reading” series from Scholastic, Watch Out, William! concerns a topic with which most young readers will readily identify - learning to ride a two-wheeler. Hilton has done a good job describing William's first cautious attempts at riding in his own yard and his desire to be able to ride his bike to school by himself. Children will be sympathetic to William's nervous fears and will be able to anticipate that his ride home from school will not go smoothly.
Watch Out, William! is divided into eight chapters with each chapter supplying another development in the plot. The vocabulary mainly consists of familiar words, but some of the names such as Ms., Imogen and Zeff will be new to the reader as will the British spelling of Mum vs. Mom. (Both Fuzz, the Famous Fly and Watch Out, William! were first published in Australia.) The storyline is fairly basic and easy to follow with the only exception being the sentence "It was taking him down the wrong side of an island." Young readers may not comprehend that the author is referring to a traffic island in the street.
Beth Norling created the illustrations for Watch Out, William! and her drawings definitely enhance the story. Like the illustrations in Fuzz, the Famous Fly, they are also black and white, but they have a cleaner, simple line to them with subtle shading. As a result, the reader is better able to appreciate the smaller details in the drawings.
Children will enjoy reading about William's wild ride down the hill and will also be proud of their own ability to read a "chapter book" independently. Note: The back of the book contains a statement both from the author and illustrator concerning the theme of the story. Students and parents may both find it interesting to read.
Lisa Sykes has worked as an early years teacher and a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB, and has recently moved with her family to Barrie, ON.
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