Billy Cooper’s Awesome Nightmare by Penny Estelle

By Ekta R. Garg

July 11, 2012

Rated: Borrow it

Seventh grader Billy Cooper is looking forward to his weekend when his teacher assigns the class a last-minute report.  Miss Wickware wants each student to draw a name of a historical figure or event from a box and prepare an oral report on the person or event on the slip of paper.  When Billy chooses William Tell, he decides to find 10 minutes during the weekend to do a Google search to complete his report requirements but instead finds himself in the middle of an adventure straight from the 14th century.  Penny Estelle’s delightful short book, Billy Cooper’s Awesome Nightmare (the first in Estelle’s series called “The Wickware Sagas”) will have parents chuckling and middle school readers reading each page in curiosity to find out more.

Billy exhibits all the typical attributes of a seventh-grade boy.  He’s more interested in attending baseball practice to get ready for the championship game than he is in researching some old person from what feels like a million years ago.  But when Billy goes to sleep on Friday night, he opens his eyes the next morning and finds himself literally on the doorstep of history.  Billy has woken up in front of the home of William Tell.  Despite his anxiety about stepping back in time (and not knowing how he did it,) Billy’s curiosity gets the better of him when Tell and his son invite Billy to travel with them to the town of Altdorf (located in present-day Switzerland.)  In Altdorf Billy gets a firsthand look at just what made William Tell a hero to his people and a legend in the process, but he worries too about whether he’ll ever make it home.

Author Penny Estelle has a charming writing style that will engage young readers as they plunge into this short tale.  Estelle offers readers the main facts essential to understanding a person or event’s place in history, and her middle-school vernacular will probably ring true in the minds of readers from that subset.  Assuming “The Wickware Sagas” will continue along similar lines (there is a connection to Billy’s teacher, but revealing it here would spoil the fun,) Estelle is well poised to educate a new generation of readers in an entertaining manner about those facts of history that may otherwise not get top billing in class.

This reviewer recommends Billy Cooper’s Awesome Nightmare for young readers and old alike and anticipates with enthusiasm more stories in “The Wickware Sagas.”


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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