Wednesday, October 14, 2009

booktober - Willy the Champ

In my first review I explained that there were some books that I came across in my daily reading to my two children that caused me to think "what the?!?!?". Willy the Champ, written by Anthony Browne, is one such book.
Recommended by our local library to be suitable reading to two to three year olds Willy the Champ is a David versus Goliath tale. Willy, who at the start of the book is a 'wimp' because he is sensitive and non-athletic, is the victim of bullying and only becomes Willy the champ after a physical encounter with bully Buster Nose.
I took issue with the book on a few levels. In the first place Willy's depiction as a bookish nerd relies on a stereotype that feels dated - are book lovers the only victims of bullying? Secondly, Browne's resolution of the bullying with a physical stoush thus transforming Willy into a champ sits uncomfortably with me. Wasn't Willy already a champ just because he was true to himself?

However my greatest issue lies with the local library identifying this book as age appropriate for my two year old who at this time in his life is working on issues such as turn taking and sharing with his friends and peers and is innocent to ideas such as bullying. My son and I did read this book - but only the once. Master E. was not keen on a re-read and was very scared of Buster Nose but would it have been censorship on my part to not share this book with my son? I've always been opposed to censorship, but as a parent I feel such protectiveness that I am revisiting the issue with new perspectives.

Of course I do not think the Willy the Champ should be removed from public libraries. But it does raise questions about where censorship ends and protection of children begins.


  1. Wow, I'm stunned that your local library would recommend that as suitable reading for 2-3 year olds. That does not seem like a book I would read to any of my children (7yrs, 4yrs, 8mths). I don't like the notion of resolving anything with a physical confrontation, and I teach my children to use their words, walk away, and ask for help.
    If I were you, I would definitely have a chat to the library regarding their age recommendation and have the sticker removed. Thanks for sharing the review :)

  2. I often find the books recommended by the library haven't be reviewed for a while. I was recommended one about toilet training and basically the bear screammed at the baby bear to get on tyhe toilet and screamed when he didn't and the baby bear screamed back- it was awful!!!

  3. Golly you come up with some thought provoking posts! I think it's perfectly fine (and wise) for parents to choose what their kids read when. For example, I think it's very reasonable for parents to decide that something like Twilight isn't appropriate for primary school kids (am I showing my bias here?), but let them read it in high school. Even better, when their kids read it, they read it too so they can talk about any bizarre or worrisome content. I think making a judgement call on what's age appropriate (even if it's at odds with the library's judgement) is very different to censorship.

    I don't think it sounds appropriate for a preschooler at all!

    Anna x


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