Billy and the Gargoyles by Heather Gregson

billy

I am sorry it’s been quiet on the review front – I have been experiencing Henri-Le-Chat-Noir levels of ennui lately. (If you don’t get that reference, get thee  to Youtube and get educated.) Rest assured, I have been reading like crazy and I will be posting several reviews this week. Again, my Pride and Prejudice related book review is late – I have yet to even read it – but this is a long weekend and I got nothin’ planned. On to today’s review.

I want to talk about this book. I often feel that way when about to do a review but this time I thought I would, rather than just get right into the review. I do not usually review kids books, I believe this one is classified “mid-grade”, but I read a lot as a child, probably for the same reason I do as an adult. Part of it is “to get away from it all” (imagine your reviewer with the back of one hand dramatically applied to her forehead)  and partly (ok, mostly) to have adventures in my head. To go to new places. To revel in the fantasy that “real life” sadly lacks. I just loved it. There was nothing like alone time with a book…. there still is nothing like a book, but I believe that feeling was planted in my head as a kid.

I strongly connected with the kid in this book. I liked that he wasn’t your typical hero (if there really is a typical kid-hero.) Let me give you the blurb, and the link to Goodreads.

Angry over his parents’ divorce, and moving to New York City, ten-year-old Billy looks around his new room in despair. His mother’s only concern is her dream job and he has lost contact with his absent father. Outside his bedroom windows are two stone gargoyles. At first Billy doesn’t like the silent sentries, but in his loneliness he confides in the gargoyles, waking them from their stone sleep. With members of their own family missing, they understand Billy’s loss and together the three form a new “family”. When they discover the missing gargoyles were not destroyed but moved, the trio set off to find their lost family and Billy learns there are times when letting go is best.

Billy isn’t exactly your shiny-happy kid. He slams doors. Sasses his mom and her boyfriend. As a matter of fact, mom isn’t such a treat, either. She’s more wrapped up in her job and work than her kid and the stress he is going through. Think about it. Moving to a new city, leaving your friends and your jerk dad behind (yeah, he’s a jerk, too, but he’s Billy’s dad). Billy feels like he doesn’t have a friend in the world, and I’m sorry to say, he really  doesn’t. This isn’t like much of the mid-grade I read as a kid. The parents were usually great, the kids were kind of sassy sometimes, but there was always that  judgemental tone behind the author’s words as he sat wearing a monocle and a smoking jacket, probably, that suggested “Maybe if you weren’t such a  sassbox, your life with your awesome parents would be better.” That kind of thing doesn’t ring true anymore. Kids of today are much more sophisticated what with the internet and the video games. If we want kids to continue to read, I think you have to give them stories that ring true to today’s world. I think this one does.

Oh, and did I mention THERE ARE GARGOYLES? And they come alive and Billy goes on adventures with them?! I almost wish I was a kid so I could have read this and have it to look back on. The ones your memory winks at you with – the ones that come up in conversations about childhood books like “Remember that one with the bunny who was a vampire?” That kind of thing. Billy has no friends and a crap family life (luckily for him, his mom’s boyfriend is actually a nice guy) but he makes friends with the gargoyles outside his window. I read a book when I was a kid about gargoyles, but it had a terrible ending. The gargoyles came to life, but in the end, they tried to make their heroine their queen – which sounds great, except for the whole “being locked for all time into a stone shape” part. The heroine wasn’t so hot on that. It was almost as if that be-monacled author was saying “See, if you just were satisfied with your normal life, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. Now get a job and pay your taxes.”

If you have a kid that likes to read and has a fantastical turn of mind, get them this one. I do not believe their time in this imaginary world will have been wasted.

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