Billy Boy lives with his mother in a deserted mining town. They are surrounded by empty houses, and live a quiet life. His father left many years ago on an errand and never returned. Billy Boy's mother hopes that if they stay in Cadomin, his father can find them again. The town is slowly deteriorating, and to entertain himself, Billy Boy explores it with his trusty bike. He also goes on bike rides into the forests and hills around the town, but never ventures too far away. The first hint of the fantastical aspect of this book occurs when a goat speaks to Billy Boy on one of his hikes up into the hills.
Click here to see the rest of this review
One day, Billy Boy's bicycle disappears. Unsettled by this development, Billy decides to go looking for it. He sets off into the forest with few supplies, and begins an adventure. As he follows the rail road tracks, the poplar trees start closing in on him, and begin trying to root into his skin. Just as things are looking desperate, Billy is rescued by Father John, a solitary resident of the forest. Father John brings Billy to his isolated cabin where he has chosen to live away from people, and attempt to catalogue everything in the forest. While Father John is at first a welcome protector from the poplars, who give him a grudging respect, he eventually becomes more of a warden to Billy, discouraging him from continuing his quest for his bike, or returning home to his mother. Billy tries to escape several times, but every attempt ends with Father John returning him to the cabin.
Sarah enters the story as an emissary of the poplars, and while she looks like a woman, seems to be a poplar in spirit. She meets Father John and Billy when they are in conflict with the poplars, and when Father John is defeated and killed by the poplars, Sarah and Billy set off together to escape the situation. By this time, Billy has heard that his mother has left home in a search for him, and so he is now consumed with catching up with her.
Billy and Sarah come across a lovely, comfortable home in the middle of the forest, once they have left the poplar territory. They stop there for a time, and Sarah claims it as her own. She asks Billy to stay, but he needs to find his mother. He continues on, meeting members of a religious group on a pilgrimage, as well as an anti establishment group who choose to live in the wild every summer, even though their numbers are dwindling from wild animal attacks. Then Billy meets a talking crow who becomes his ally in his search for his mother, and assists him in tracking her down. And, once he finds his mother, she is able to help him reclaim his bike from a talking bear. Reunited, Billy and his mother venture back to Sarah's home, where they recover from their respective journeys and settle in. Then, the religious group passes by, and Billy realizes that his father is a member of the group. He is torn about telling his mother, and possibly triggering a reunion, when they are finally out of their sad, abandoned town and facing the prospect of a fresh start. The decision is taken from him when she spies his father in the group, although he doesn't see her. Billy's mother decides in the end to let his father continue on with the pilgrimage without speaking to him, and disrupting his plans. They are fine just the way they are.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the depiction of an abandoned town, as it is an element of fascination for me. I also enjoyed the directness of Billy Boy's voice in the narrative.
Best scene in story:
I loved the scene with the bear as he tried to learn how to ride Billy's bike. It was a great combination of humour and fantasy.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Billy Boy's love and understanding for his mother, and his sense of adventure.