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Cosby's "Little Bill" Series Is Engaging -- and Educational!

Entertainer Bill Cosby introduces the first three books in his "Little Bill" series. Kids will learn that they can solve any problem -- from boredom to bullies -- if they set their minds to it! The "Little Bill" series is January's "Oprah's Book Club" selection!

Bill Cosby is a man of many talents. He's a comedian, a storyteller, an educator, a writer. Pull together all those talents and you have Cosby's new "Little Bill Books for Beginning Readers" from Scholastic. Engaging and entertaining -- and educational! -- each book focuses on a problem that most kids will relate to. In the first three books in the series, Little Bill deals with boredom, bullies, and the best way to play.

Bill Cosby Book Cover All the Little Bill books are told in the first person. Set in large type, with no more than a handful of sentences per page, the books are perfect for emerging readers ages 5 to 8. The messages in each book are simple and clear, without being preachy. For that reason -- and because the Jell-o pudding man is telling them! -- kids to age 10 will probably enjoy the books too.

Varnette P. Honeywood's bold, lively illustrations will engage readers of all ages. She brings a special life and personality to Little Bill, his family members, and his friends Andrew, Fuschia, and Kiku. Honeywood's hairstyles, facial expressions, and colorful clothing are a perfect accompaniment to Cosby's friendly, kid-oriented stories.

The Little Bill series provides kids with useful tools for coping with difficult social situations. Mom and Dad are always helpful -- as is my favorite character, Alice the Great, Little Bill's wise old great-grandmother -- but, in the end, Little Bill uses imagination and creativity as he takes responsibility for solving most of his own problems.

In addition, each book includes an introductory letter by Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Alvin F. Poussaint (Harvard Medical School), who provides an analysis of the situation for parents and caregivers.

At $3.99 each, the Little Bill paperback books are a bargain. Teachers can use them anytime as read aloud books -- or they might pull them off the shelf to help diffuse a difficult classroom situation. Little Bill offers a friendly role model for all kids. The books would be an excellent addition to any teacher's citizenship curriculum.

The Little Bill books have been selected as the Oprah's Book Club selections this month. Cosby, Poussaint, and Honeywood joined Oprah for the show, which aired in most markets January 16.

THE MEANEST THING TO SAY

Michael Reilly is the new kid in school. He's feeling a little lonely and insecure. His solution is to involve the other kids in a playground game of "Playing the Dozens." Each player gets 12 chances to say something mean to the others. The meanest insult wins!

The insults fly. "You shoot like a girl!" "You smell like old egg salad!" But Bill, thanks to his Dad's example, has the perfect response, a response that ends up bringing the kids together and making them laugh. Being a good guy turns out to be the best way to win at the game of being mean!

As Dr. Poussaint summarizes in his introduction: Little Bill's tactic "shows your child that there are always ways to resolve conflicts with other children without losing face or resorting to violence. In the process, a misbehaving kid may have a chance to change and be welcomed as a friend."

THE TREASURE HUNT

Little Bill doesn't have school today, but it's raining outside and he's bored. Everyone else in the house has something to do. Little Bill's brother, Bobby, is playing with his baseball card collection. His Mom is polishing the silver. Dad tries to interest Little Bill in jazz greats such as Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk. But Little Bill has no interest in "scratchy old records" (plastic records, on top of it!). He has no interest in the silver platter that might someday be his or in playing sportscaster with Bobby. Little Bill has no special interests or special talents.

Or so he thinks.

Enter Alice the Great! Little Bill's "Great-grandma" gets Bill to tell a story. His story makes Great-grandma laugh -- and it makes Little Bill realize that he does have a talent.

Little Bill's tale concludes: "My treasure hunt was over. I learned what was special to me -- telling stories and making people laugh You can't polish or dust or sort my special things. You can only enjoy them."

Then Little Bill sits and stares at the rain outside his window and makes up another story!

THE BEST WAY TO PLAY

It's Saturday morning, all the adults are busy doing "adult things," and Little Bill and his friend Andrew are watching cartoons. They see a commercial for Space Exlporers, their favorite TV show. That leads the boys to the empty lot next to Uncle Al's house, where they get into a game of Space Explorers with Bill's cousin Fuschia and her friend Kiku. The "let's pretend" game ends just in time to watch Space Exlporers.

Between segments of an episode that finds Captain Zeke battling aliens and space monsters, the kids see a TV advertisement for a new Space Explorers video game. "So buy a game and show people that you're one of us!" implores Captain Zeke.

Little Bill and his friends all want to be "one of us," so each rushes home to make a case for the $50 toy!

Little Bill is disappointed at the response he gets from his Mom, Dad, and Alice the Great. I'll never be a good Space Explorer now, he thinks. "I feel like an alien in my own house."

But all is not lost. Andrew gets the video game, which all the kids take turns playing. An hour later, a little bored with the game, they're all out in the big lot next to Uncle Al's house pretending to be Space Explorers!

Imagination and creativity win out again! Even over advertising hype!

The Little Bill series is available in bookstores nationwide. If the books are out of stock, ask your bookseller to order them for you. The Best Way to Play, The Treasure Hunt, and The Meanest Thing to Say are all published under the Cartwheel Books imprint of Scholastic, Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World

01/19/1998