In Ask Willie, Willie is coerced into taking over the school newspaper's advice column, while his friend Felix is busy writing feature articles. When Willie begins writing responses for the Ask Amy column, he tries to use Biblical principles to guide his answers. At first, Willie's readers are quite successful as they put his advice into practice. However, as Willie feels more and more proud of his results, he starts writing advice based on his own wisdom, which, as a 13-year-old, leads to some pretty interesting outcomes.
In one letter, a reader complains about his parents, who want him to enjoy sports like they did. Willie remembers his youth pastor talking about Christians being different parts of the same body in 1 Corinthians 12, and tells the reader to show his parents the things he is good at. Willie writes, "Usually, when parents make your life difficult, it's only because they want you to be healthy, happy and successful - even more than they are. Try to show them you can be healthy, happy and successful without being good at sports. Find something you do well, and show them how good you are at it." After writing, Willie thinks, "It wasn't exactly like in 1 Corinthians, but I thought it was probably good advice."
However, as the novel progresses and Willie gains confidence, Willie advises a boy to overcome his fear of flying by climbing a cliff, he convinces a shy girl to do something outrageous to get the attention of the boy she likes, and, in a case of mistaken identity, creates a bully by telling a boy to be tough and stand up for himself. The shy girl chooses the last inning of the championship ball game to declare her love for the baseball star, and causes their team to lose the game, and Willie is set up for the ultimate practical joke in the cliff-climbing incident.
While these episodes are all funny, Willie learns his lesson and realizes that giving God's advice is much better than relying on his own wisdom.
What I Like: Buchanan and Randall capture the spirit and language of teenage boys in a lighthearted way, but still work in biblical truths. Willie and Felix are very funny, and anyone who has been in junior high can relate to the lunch table, gym class, and baseball games they experience.
I also like Felix and Phoebe. Felix is a quirky character that readers can laugh at but still appreciate as a good friend. Phoebe is portrayed through Willie's eyes, and is a bit like the annoying sister that you can't help liking sometimes. It is a fun surprise when she gets Willie back for some of his practical jokes.
What I Dislike: As a mom, I don't like some of the practical jokes. (For example, putting mayonnaise in a sunscreen bottle, leading to a pretty decent sunburn.) As a teenager, I am sure they are funny, but I would rather not have some of the ideas put into my kids heads!
There is a reference to the Animaniacs, which is a bit dated, but most kids will gather it was a show from the context, and it probably wouldn't be a big deal.
Overall Rating: Very Good
Age Appeal: 8-12 (but most junior high readers would enjoy it too)
Publisher Info: Concordia Publishing House, 1999; ISBN: 978-0-570-05478-8 ; Paperback $5.99
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