Matty and Bill For Keeps by Elizabeth Fensham
Published July 2012 UQP
From the publisher:
There's a new boy at Bill and Matty's school - Crispin de Floriette. He's from England and not like anyone else they've met before, with talk of castles and lands far away. Isabelle soon notices Crispin and plots to make him her new 'friend'. But Bill knows first-hand what sort of friend Isabelle can be...However, Crispin is not the only one who needs rescuing. Maggot is back in town and Bill is anxious about his dad being caught up in another crooked scheme. To make matters worse, Bill has his own worries - feelings so confusing he doesn't know how to describe them. Even Matty isn't sure how to help this time. An enchanting story of friendship, growing up and being yourself, from one of Australia's favourite storytellers.
This is the third book about Matty and Bill. I have read the first one, but not the second. It’s nice to have a series where the books will stand on their own, and this book does. In this book Matty and Bill are firm friends, if you wanted to read how this friendship developed you may want to go back and read the other books, but you don’t need to have read the others to enjoy this one.
Matty and Bill go to a small school, in a smallish town. There are certain ways to act at school to minimize the potential for teasing and ridicule. When Crispin de Floriette arrives at school from England, Bill is immediately worried for him. A few things stand out, his name, his outfit (shorts, socks and sandals), his ‘proper’ way of speaking, his bright red hair, and white doughy skin. This is just the obvious stuff, when Crispin starts to talk about his schooling (Latin and botany) and his hobbies (Knitting), and the fact that he refers to his Dad as Daddy, Bill knows he has to step in and keep him safe. Sadly he’s not fast enough, and Isabella gets her hands on him. A friend like Crispin with royal connections of just what the very wealthy and very spoilt is just what Isabella needs. Crispin is not so sure. This is where the troubles start and Bill and Matty step in.
When the drama Crispin gets himself involved in (possible expulsion, police intervention and solicitors) dies down, the three find themselves ready to take on the really bad guys. Bill’s Dad has been in jail, but he is well on his way to getting his life together, studying in Sydney, and keeping away from his criminally inclined mates. When Maggot (a criminally inclined mate) calls looking for Troy (Bill’s dad), Bill decides to plan a trap that will avoid Maggot and his father having contact, and catch him red handed in his toxic waste disposal scheme!
It’s the last part of the book; about Bill that I felt didn’t really fit in with the story. It all seemed very sudden. After Crispin leaves, everything is different. I guess it was Crispin, that opened Bills eyes to possibilities of new friendships, and a world bigger than his and Matty’s backyard and the ThinkTank. I can’t remember exactly, but I would say that Matty is a year or so younger than Bill, so it was inevitable that things would change. She writes him a letter that was so thoughtful, and in she said that ‘…growing up might be like flying to another part of the world. It must be scary and lonely.” She also mentions that she will ‘catch up later’, I will admit to being quite moved by the letter and the sentiment, to me it really felt like something has ended, so I think this might be the last book about Matty and Bill.
There’s also more than a little humour in this story. Due to the fact that Crispin is from England, there are a lot of cultural differences that can make for some entertaining reading.
Who will like this book: Girls and Boys age 9+
Read it if you like: Matty and Bill
Read it if you like: Matty and Bill