Billy Had To Move: Theresa Ann Fraser, CYW,BA. And Illustrated by Alex Watson
Losing a parent, grandparent or guardian can often be quite traumatic for any child whether young, teen or even young adult. Being forced to move from their home where they have their own room, friends in the neighborhood or even made to leave their pet with someone else can create emotional problems for the young person. Billy is seven and has lived with his grandmother left. Entering his classroom, Mr. Lee, the Principal, instructs him that he’s to come to his office. Remembering that in the past the only reason this happened is when a social worker attended the meeting in the office and asked about his mother. This would prove to be different as Mr. Murphy, the social worker and Mr. Lee have to gently and carefully tell this young child that his grandmother passed away and that he is being placed in a home with strangers. Wondering why this man had his camp bag and several other personal things that belonged to him, he became defensive in his movements, a little scared and was told to listen to what this man had to say. Just looking at the illustration on page 3 you can and feel the emotional turmoil within this child even before he learns about his grandmother.
Mr. Murphy tells him that his grandmother passed and after that everything else was a real blur. Imagine having to go to a funeral and not really understanding what that meant. Imagine being told you no longer could return to your own home, that your pet was being cared for by someone else and that you whole life was going to change. Not easy for a 7 year old or even someone older. Driving up to the colorful house depicted on page 7 you can see the fear, sadness and heartache in Billy’s young face as he reluctantly takes the social worker’s hand and walks to the door of the lady who would care for him. Listening to the dialogue between the lady named Amy and the social worker you can tell that she understands Billy’s sadness and wants him to feel part of her family from the start. When Billy stops her young daughter from crying she has enough faith in him to watch Colly. Seeing his new room filled with so many things and understanding that he would attend his grandmother’s funeral within a few days had to be overwhelming to say the least.
Most children act out, can be difficult but Billy has other issues that come to light that are real. Headaches, stomach aches and other physical problems come to light as he becomes afraid, worried and confused at times. Dreams that kept him awake, thinking about his grandmother, hoping to hear her voice in his dreams kept him going. But, Mr. Murphy return with someone quite special. A young lady that is called a Child and Play Therapist. The author uses her experience as a Child Psychotherapist/Play Therapist who works with foster care children on a daily basis, showing that the foster care system sometimes does work and that there are social workers who look out for the best interest of the children whose cases they have to monitor.
Amy seemed like someone that understood Billy and went out of her way to make things that he enjoyed or liked and help him adjust to his new life. Trying to find his real mother, they could not. The most heartfelt picture that will bring tears to your eyes is the one on page 13 where Billy feels his grandmother’s presence in a dream.
Mrs. Woods the therapist was quite astute and realizes that it was going to take time for Billy to open up and feel comfortable with her. Talking about her own bike drew him out and her enthusiasm was contagious. Dreaming about his Nana woke him up in the middle of the night and not being about to eat, drink or sleep did concern Amy. Would going to the therapist draw him out? Would she be able to make this child smile? Just how does Amy show her support? Just how does Mr. Murphy prove that there are some social workers that go the extra mile and really care for the children whose cases they manage? Just what does a play therapist do? Read pages 18-22 and learn that for yourself as in a good mystery the answers come when you find the clues, see the end result and create you own conclusions.
Where does Billy wind up? Will we ever see him smile? Read this heartwarming story about a young 7 year old boy who had to find his way to understand that his grandmother was gone, his mother could not be found and hopefully he just might find love with a family somewhere else.
This is a great book that all caseworkers should read, guidance counselors, foster children, teachers to read in class, great for discussion groups and even better for school administrators to understand how important it is to monitor the social workers in the school and make sure they have the children’s best interest at heart. Page 26 is an invaluable resource as it talk to the caregiver and explains Billy’s feelings, Mr. Murphy’s role and how they can better understand their role as a foster parent. Helping children understand that they are not alone in this world and there are people that care for them is paramount. Billy Had To Move is an excellent starting point for all children and presenting this in a positive way is really outstanding. The illustrations are quite expressive and the story is true to life. It would be great if the author continues writing about Billy so that other children can learn what happens to him when he gets older. Added in are websites for foster parents to use as resources, web sites for caregivers, therapists and social workers and information about the author and illustrator.
Fran Lewis: reviewer