Review by Win Wiacek
Tony Millionaire first gave us the adventures of Billy Hazelnuts in 2006, so a sequel four years later was a pleasant surprise.
The entire crew return for further fantastic frolics in another strident, striking, fantastical folktale voyage. Irascible, good-hearted, fiery-tempered and super-strong, Billy is adapting to life on the farm, but has a few philosophical problems with the natural world, most prominently that everything in it is icky, oozy and wants to eat everything else in it.
After a titanic tussle with the farm cat and an owl, Billy reluctantly takes responsibility for a newly hatched owl chick. It’s an ugly, vicious, violent baby brute that keeps consuming whole chunks of his baked pre-fab body.
After consulting the confectionary conjuror and all-around wise man Rupert Punch, Billy resolves to return the chick to its lost mother, undertaking a hazardous and utterly surreal journey through Millionaire’s incredible signature land, sea and sky-scapes, with the malevolent and opportunistic farm cat “assisting”. He has to hurry though because the ungrateful fledgling has already eaten the back of his head and an entire arm.
Rendered in Millionaire’s captivating monochrome line, this is another darkly frantic race against time and charmingly belligerent fantasy yarn with the requisite happy ending that will appeal to kids on any age. It’s full of action, wonder, imagination and good intent, clearly promising that the author will soon be the worthiest contemporary successor to Baum, Sendak, the Brothers Grimm and Lewis Carroll.
Brilliant, scary, poignant and lovely, make Billy Hazelnuts a part of your leisure-life now.