Billy and Ant Lie – James Minter

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ― Mark Twain

Billy and Ant Lie is the fourth book in James Minter’s ‘Billy’ series – a life learning collection for children entering adolescence. The series focuses on difficult or troubling situations faced by many preteen’s as they embark on their journey towards adulthood. The world is a confusing, complex and ever-changing place, and Minter’s Billy series attempts to help young adults to understand the decisions and situations which they many encounter. The first book in the Billy series – a review of which you can find here – in which Minter’s main character, Billy, has his extra-special birthday present stolen by an older boy, tackles the issue of bullying, and how best to react, and deal with situations in which you find yourself victimised or picked on by other people. The fourth book, which uses a very similar approach to Minter’s first book, tackles the issue of lying.

The book begins with Billy setting off on his bike to meet his friend Ant so that they can ride to school together. It is a simple, ordinary enough day, until Billy and Ant stumble upon a £1 coin in the bus stop. Despite running a little bit late for school the two friends head off to buy some sweets from Mr Gupter’s garage.

There is something to be said for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, which Billy and Ant discover, when their sweet buying attempt is interrupted by a fleeing shop lifter. Shocked, and presumably a little upset, the pair rush off to school before they can be questioned by anyone else at the scene. Worried that their lateness will land them in trouble, they concoct an elaborate lie to get them off the hook, deciding to say that Ant had a flat tyre, and that they had to return home to get it fixed before coming in to school.

Lies are never simple though, and they rarely get you off the hook. So when the police come to school appealing for any witnesses from the incident at Mr Gupter’s garage it is only a matter of time before the Billy and Ant’s story begins to unravel. When the local Police Constable asks to speak to Billy and Ant about the situation their teacher is shocked – they couldn’t possibly have seen what had happened, they were very specific about their whereabouts during the incident. Billy and Ant realise that it is only a matter of time before the truth catches up to them, and they discover just how much trouble their lie has caused.

The guilt and fear at having told a lie proves to be more trouble than it was worth. When Billy and Any made the decision to hide their true whereabouts from their teacher, they may have thought they were committing a victimless crime, but in reality, like a pebble being dropped into a pond, their lie created ripples that were more far-reaching than either boy could ever have imagined.

The reality is that if they had just told the truth to begin with, they wouldn’t have got in any trouble – their teachers and parents would likely have been concerned for their wellbeing, rather than disappointed and hurt.  By telling a lie, they made things the worse not just for themselves, but for all those around them too.

Billy and Ant Lie is another a wonderful example of a story that young children can enjoy reading along with the parents, while learning a little bit about the world around them. The book is well-written and easy to follow, offering an accessible route for parents to broach an issue that is likely to affect many young children as they begin their journey into adulthood.

Minter’s Billy Books are designed for parents, guardians, teachers and the young minds they care for, to help smooth the journey along the bumpy road from late childhood into adolescence. The books provide lessons and advice for children, as well as a conversation starter for adults wishing to approach these subjects with their young counterparts. By providing a character than children can relate to, the books help children to form an understanding of the real-world implications of their actions.

“I like books whose virtue is all drawn together in a page or two. I like sentences that don’t budge though armies cross them.” ― Virginia Woolf

Obscure poetry round two – Final sentence poetry.

I was recommended this method of constructing poetry by a friend of a friend, and I instantly loved it! The idea is to choose a book, and construct a poem by taking the final sentence from each chapter, starting at the back and working forwards

I took a while browsing through the books at home and in the office before I chose two to use that I liked the look of, and then used a long train journey to London to construct my poetry. The main issue I encountered was with overly long sentences, I took each of these as they came, cutting some of them down, or running them across two lines, depending on what I thought sounded better.

The following are the end result:

1134855Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree – Albert Wendt

Forgive dear reader please confession
Of Humble man who is man got religion.
All is well in Lava,
So spake the Flying-Fox.
She visits her husband’s grave at Magiagi every Saturday afternoon,
We crucified him.
It is only a saint they are burying,
The only one you’ve got down is only a pampered nag.
If mine father mother brother and captain see me now;
He held up his hand proudly.
Mauga stood crowned by the last rays of the setting sun.

Billy Liar – Keith WaterhouseImage

I began the slow walk home,
I did not have the courage to turn around and look at my mother.
I put out the light.
The idea of ever seeing Stamp again,
Filled me with horror.
I beckoned to Liz.
I did not stop running until I was clear of Clogiron Lane,
And whistled all the way down the Arcade,
Getting the Ambrosian repeater gun into position.
And even while I was burying the calenders the feeling was still with me.
Why don’t you tell the boring little man to stick the job up his jacksy?
I watched her down Market Street until the swinging of her skirt was out of sight,
And went into the office.
Get stuffed.
I wondered what I was going to do about everything.

Again I had a lot of fun playing around with these and decided to spread the word a little further, this time to a friend who’s currently living over in Australia. His taste in books is a little unusual, but I really liked what he came up with:


John Dies at the End – David Wong

Your ball.
I knew, of course, that it never, ever would.
I turned to John to tell him to find something sharp.
What’s in it?
I can’t believe you just said that,
One way or another,
This is gonna be the end.
I would have put a bullet in my own skull one minute later.
I snapped the padlock shut,
Then trudged inside the house.
Now, this is going to sound crazy…
Then in the fall, everything went to hell,
He then stabbed Xorox in the belly with her own hand.
Vegas was just the beginning.
Wanna play hockey?
And then came the voices.
I got nothing else out of her the rest of the night.
Do you have your ATM card?
Please come with me, sir.
I locked up and went to bed.

I’d recommend any of you creative types out there to give this a go, the method doesn’t really require a lot of effort at all, and I found some of the sentences worked together really well.

I’ve been given some great suggestions so far for other methods to include on my obscure poetry journey, so please feel free to send me any other ideas you might have.