Cover image for Billy and the big new school
Billy and the big new school
Anholt, Laurence.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Morton Grove, Ill. : Whitman & Co., 1999.

Physical Description:
32 unnumbered pages : color illustrations ; 25 x 27 cm
Billy is nervous about starting school, but as he cares for a sparrow that eventually learns to fly on its own, he realizes that he too can look after himself.
General Note:
Originally published: London : Orchard Books, c1997.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.4 0.5 64169.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

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Billy is excited to be starting at a new school, but he feels funny inside, too. What if he gets lost, can't learn to tie his new shoes, or doesn't make any friends? He wonders if he's like the little sparrow in the yard that can't quite fly by itself yet. Then one morning, the bird is ready to go into the big world -- and so is Billy!

Laurence Anholt's text gently acknowledges the fear of "leaving the nest, " while Catherine Anholt's detailed and charming illustrations provide a reassuring look at the first day of school.

Author Notes

Laurence Anholt spent his early childhood in Holland where he developed a passion for Art. Before he attended school for his passion, Anholt worked as a Hotel-Night-Receptionist, a Carpenter, a Schoolteacher and an Art Lecturer, among various other odd jobs. Anholt studied painting for eight years and earned a Master's Degree from the Royal Academy of Art in London. He met his wife and partner Catherine at the Falmouth School of Art in Cornwall. The first books the husband and wife team published were about a small pig called Truffles, in 1983 for their oldest daughter, Claire.

Laurence writes all of their books and Catherine has illustrated about half of them. Laurence also illustrates his own books, in particular the bestselling series about great artists. Their work has won many awards, including the Nestlé Smarties Gold Award, the Kids' Club Network Award, the Right Start Toy and Book Award three times, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award twice, the English Association Four to Eleven Awards twice, the US Children's Media Award and the CCBC Choices 2001 twice. They have over 70 children's titles in print.

Anholt is also a public speaker and has made appearances at the European Council of International Schools Conference, The UK's Northern Children's Book Festival, the Cheltenham Festival, the Edinburgh Festival and the Hay-on-Wye Festival. He also helped to judge the prestigious Nestlé Smarties Award.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 3^-7. Fearful of starting at a new school, Billy imagines everything that could go wrong. He might cry; he might get lost. The laces on his new shoes are hard to tie. What if . . . ? Then he cares for a little baby sparrow and helps it fly away; and he realizes that for him, too, it is time to let go and that he can be brave and take care of himself. He starts school, everyone is nice, and when the teacher asks the children to talk about their pets, Billy tells the story of the sparrow. This is less realistic than Rosemary Wells' Timothy Goes to School (1981) and Yoko (1998). Billy encounters no meanness anywhere, Mom and the teacher are perfect, friendship is easy, and everything is tied up neatly and happily in the classroom. However, the fear is real, and reading this story is a reassuring way to help children talk about their anxieties and realize that everyone is scared of starting school. As always with the Anholts, the appeal is in the elemental situation from the child's viewpoint and in the tiny narrative details and examples in the small, soft-toned ink-and-watercolor pictures. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Anholts (The Big Book of Families) offer a poignant but reassuring treatment of the anxiety a child feels facing the first day at a new school. Billy confides his fears to the birds in his backyard; he's worried not just about getting lost, but also about the new shoes his mother has bought him, "with laces that were hard to tie." The day before the big start, Billy rescues a young sparrow that is not strong enough to fly. Using a characteristic mix of vignettes, spot art and large-scale illustrations, the Anholts affectionately juxtapose the drama of Billy's sheltering of the bird with the preparations made for school. While Billy makes the bird a nest in a shoebox, his mother is ironing and writing his name on his clothes. The parallel becomes explicit the next morning, when Billy and his mother release the recovered sparrow: "`You have to fly away,' he whispered. `You have to learn to take care of yourself‘like me.'" The drawings of the school (showing children romping on the playground, the kindly teacher, the toilets, the painting area and the computer) will kindle young children's interest, addressing both the strangeness of a new school as well as its possibilities for promoting friendships and positive experiences. As school-jitters stories go, this has an advantage apart from its gracefulness: because the Anholts never spell out Billy's exact situation, their book will be equally appropriate to children facing their first day of kindergarten or moving from one school to another. Ages 4-6. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 1-Nervous about starting school, Billy spends time talking to the birds that gather around the feeder in his yard. There he finds the "smallest, grubbiest, weediest, most dusty" sparrow and nurses it back to health. Before going to school, he releases it, saying, "You have to learn to take care of yourself-just like me." That day he makes a friend, tells his classmates about the bird, and ends up with the biggest smile around. The story finishes on an optimistic note for both the boy and the bird. The artwork is done in Catherine Anholt's familiar style-watercolor-and-ink cartoons featuring full, rounded, mostly smiling faces. The illustrations show Billy's drawings, school supplies, classroom surroundings, and finally, the boy's friends. This is a good book to dissipate children's fears about starting school and to show that the classroom can be just as enjoyable as home.-Shelley Woods, Boston Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.