Willy's Stories, written and illustrated by Anthony Browne, is not your typical children’s book. Browne takes classic children’s tales we all grew up with and creates a beautifully illustrated collection.
The narrator is a chimp named Willy who tells the reader of the adventures he experiences every time he opens the doors of a library. It is an homage to libraries everywhere.
With every turn of the page, Willy describes a single moment from a classic tale from literature. He puts himself in different scenes from such stories as Robinson Crusoe, Peter Pan, and The Wind in the Willows. He then asks the reader what they think will happen next. This is a brilliant way to introduce classic literature to budding readers. It lets them predict what may happen in each story, but the only way to find out is to read it.
Although his type of storytelling is the strength of the book, it is also its undoing. Since this book is comprised of clips of the classics with a single illustration for each story, there is not enough visual stimulus or story to keep younger kids interested. It would work for older kids; not only could Willy's Stories get kids reading but writing as well.
As mentioned earlier, the main character is a chimp. In fact all the characters are some form of ape. You may ask yourself why did the illustrator use apes as the characters in his book, and the simple answer is, why not? If you don't like it, illustrate your own book! Betcha it won't be anything quite as interesting or whimsical as Browne's work. The classic feel of Browne's illustrations is a nod to the stories they represent. Readers will also enjoy going back through the book and finding the different objects in each story that were made out of books themselves.
All in all, Willy's Stories is a wonderful book that introduces classic literature to kids. Just make sure those kids are old enough to appreciate it.