Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: Little Will the Bugle Boy

(Reprinted from Blogjob, where it appeared with the tags: Bill Binzen photographer,children’s storiesmilitary history of Candy LandWilliam Binzen photographer. Some readers liked Little Will the Bugle Boy better than I did. I replied that Binzen had done better, notably with Miguel's Mountain.)

Title: Little Will the Bugle Boy
Author: William Binzen
Author's posthumous web site: https://www.billbinzen.com/about.html
Date: 1963
Publisher: Abelard Schuman
ISBN: none
Length: pages not numbered, but this is a thin book
Illustrations: drawings, some colored, by the author
Quote: “When the King heard that his Army had captured ten million lollipops, he danced for joy!”
It could hardly get much sillier than that. Nor does it. Little Will finds an old bugle some grown-up soldier has apparently just abandoned, and blows on it to rally the Candy Cane Army when the Lollipop soldiers have stopped up the regular Candy Cane buglers’ bugles. Ah yes, the fates of nations ordinarily depend on grown men who aren’t intelligent enough to remove foreign objects from musical instruments they’re paid to know how to play...
The drawings aren’t very lifelike either.
Books like Little Will the Bugle Boy get printed because somebody thought they were cute. If you agree, this book is for you. Call it the military history of Candy Land.
There was more to Bill Binzen, however, than his writing a story that hinged on the classic children's story cliche of Clever Child in a World of Idiot Adults. He was primarily a photographer, who published books of landscape photos for adults (like The Berkshires) and manipulated photos for children (Alfred Goes House Hunting). Little Will the Bugle Boy was his first book; although it does not contain photographs, some photography buffs might be interested in it as part of a collection of Binzen's work.
Interestingly, although the author's name for this book is "William" Binzen, Binzen seems to have preferred "Bill" for his other books. Currently the name "William Binzen" is being used by Bill Binzen's son, who inherited his father's fascination with photographic techniques. Samples of his pictures (and videos) can be seen at https://www.binzenwalker.com/ .)
The copy of this book I physically owned had been in a children's library for many years and remained in good condition. You know what that generally says about a children's book. Nevertheless, among adults, Little Will the Bugle Boy has gone into the collector price range; although Binzen no longer has any use for $1.50, the best price I can offer on this thin book will be $10 per copy + $5 per package. It becomes a bargain if you order other books in the same package.