by Richmal Crompton

Although written in the early 1990s, Richmal Crompton’s “William” series continues to bring out chuckles a century later. The book that I read, Sweet William, was first published in 1936, and is one of the 38 “William” books by the author. The series of short stories in each book focuses on the life of William Brown, an eleven-year old English schoolboy. Heading a gang called the Outlaws, he always entices his three other members into being accomplices to his wild plans. This he does through his ability for great rhetoric and his inability to predict consequences.

In Sweet William, the Outlaws are faced with situations that require serious thinking and creative solutions: how to hide a stray horse so that they can keep it all to themselves; how to plan out a kidnapping in order to grab big bucks quickly and safely; how to outwit an adult adversary with a penchant for childish pranks; how to institute a day where fights are officially allowed. Even without the Outlaws, life is not without its challenges for William. Keeping himself entertained with daring endeavours while keeping his family in the dark about his work-in-progress is not something he manages successfully. His curiosity with new things and enthusiasm for action are of a brand that is not popular among teachers. Some of the neighbours, having experienced the product of his past ventures around the village, have taken the pro-active step of forbidding their children to play with him.

What has hooked me is the author’s colourful use of language in the hilarious description of normal and routine life, as well as the art of getting the reader into William’s head and heart to read the innocent motivations for what he does. While we are aware that a child’s view is different from an adult’s, the portrayal of William’s opinions about grown-up behaviour, or how he and his friends interpret an incident differently from an adult still raises smiles.

The unsatisfactory aspect of the book is that not all the ten stories have good conclusions. While some stories gave me the contentment of a hearty meal, others left me with a feeling of having my plate removed even before the food was finished.

Although the book is about a child, the level of language may be a little difficult to grasp for the young, average reader. The William series was originally written for more mature readers so youngsters may need some help to persevere in completing the book. They can, however, take encouragement from the fact that this has not stopped the spread of William’s appeal to many other children who had read about him.