Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln

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Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A light but enjoyable twist on Beetlejuice for confident readers at mid to late primary age. Lots of ghosts and ghouls, some mistreated orphans, a wicked rich uncle and plenty of high jinks in an enjoyable, if light, read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN: 033045014X

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Billy Bones lives with his parents Lars and Decette in a closet deep inside High Manners Manor. Billy and his family are skeletons from the afterlife, charged with guarding the secrets and lies of the Biglum family. And the Biglums have plenty of secrets and lies. The closet is full of trunks, with all the family's darkest, most dastardly deeds carefully filed and locked away. The current head of the family, Sir Biglum, is merely the last in a long line of unpleasant Biglums. Greedy, nasty and cunning, they've allowed every vice going to poison their hearts.

Also hidden away at High Manners Manor is Millicent, Sir Biglum's orphaned niece. She's kept out of sight and is bullied by Miss Primly, Sir Biglum's fearsome housekeeper. But Billy and Millicent - who can see what others cannot; skeletons for example - make friends, and gradually they uncover the extent of Sir Biglum's wickedness and the ghastly secret behind it all. Billy is really a Biglum.

Think Beetljuice for kids and that's all I really need to say about this book. It's tremendous fun, with a great pantomime-style narrative and plenty of humour. The Afterlife is run by a kind of overly officious civil service and has more daft regulations than you could shake a stick at. Millicent is a proper Cinderella figure - abused by the very person who gets credit for taking her in. Billy is a changeling who must be restored to his rightful place once the villain has been defeated by some non-violent banana skin skits. It's light, it's harmless, it isn't scary and it makes you laugh.

It is, though, a very light read. The villains are cardboard cutouts and even Millicent and Billy, the central characters, are fairly two dimensional. Billy's secret isn't secret for very long and nobody finds it particularly difficult to vanquish the wicked Sir Biglum. While I don't think the book is trying for great depth - and why should it? - I do think it might leave some readers feeling vaguely unsatisfied. It's light and it's fun, but I don't think it will stay with them for too long after they've read it. It's enjoyable and kindly and full of visual gags and as such it's a satisfying read, but if they're looking for something with challenge, Billy Bones might fall a little short of the mark.

Recommended for a library borrowing and as a purchase only for those who are particular fans of its type.

My thanks to the nice people at Macmillan for sending the book.

For those who like something with a bit more meat on its ghostly bones, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is a slightly more challenging read - and a bit more than slightly scarier.

Buy Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln at Amazon.com.


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