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What I Did by Christopher Wakling
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What I Did (edition 2012)

by Christopher Wakling

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6528183,505 (3.47)4
Member:lostbooks
Title:What I Did
Authors:Christopher Wakling
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2012), Edition: Original, Kindle Edition, 291 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:1/2
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What I Did by Christopher Wakling

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While some people may have found this book charming, as it attempted to be written from a child's point of view, and the "kid logic" was sometimes reminiscent of how my children saw things when they were younger,there were times when it just came across as smarmy and uncaring - an adult trying to be a kid and not succeeding. I found that the tragedy that was stirred up by this book was too PC for me. We allow corporal punishment in Texas. It is okay to spank your kids. You do not get sent to jail for having your kids have a bruise and blaming it on you to Child Protective Services. I got part way through this book, and was so disgusted by what was happening, that I couldn't finish it. A kid turns his parents in to CPS because he says they hurt him. He is a kid and doesn't understand the ramifications of what he is doing. The consequences are harsh and as I read more I was just glad that I didn't live in California or New York, where this type of thing happens. I know they want to protect children, but then there is going overboard. I didn't read the rest of the book, it is supposed to be heartwarming, but I never really liked the child very much in the book, and sympathized with the Father more. He was trying the best he could, and to have this result from his efforts was like a slap in the face. I'm sure things were resolved, and the family became close from what they'd been through, but what a subject to write about. I couldn't waste my time reading any more. It just makes me sick thinking about it - having the government have such control over peoples lives on the word of a child who can't even put his own shoes on his feet and doesn't know back from front. Does it happen? Yes it does. It happened to a friend of mine whose child fell at preschool, and some nosey teacher called in CPS and tried to have the child taken away and the parent jailed. Luckily, another teacher was there and saw the child fall, or that would have happened. I don't understand the attraction to this book for the people who sang its' praises. Maybe they don't have children, or haven't seen the system in action. Anyway, it's not my cup of tea. ( )
  Molecular | Feb 21, 2014 |
Billy Wright is a precocious six-year-old who loves wild animals and has an active imagination. On a morning trip to the park he imagines himself a predator following the tracks of his prey. As his father starts chasing him when he fails to come back when called he starts imagining himself as prey and continues running until finally he runs into a busy street. This act starts the serious plot of the book which deals with the stresses of modern life, with how good intentions can lead to bad results, and with problems of communication.

At the same time, however, the book, which is written in Billy's voice, has moments where it is laugh-out-loud funny, largely because of the malapropos and leaps of thought which sound so convincing coming from a bright six-year-old. For example:
Grandma Lynne made Mum in her room. Not her bedroom, but the room next to her stomach. All female mammals have one. And all babies start out from there with stretchy umbrella cords.
Dad says they put all the best bits of a film in the trailer to reduce you into watching, and that quite often the rest of the film isn't up to much, but he is wrong. They don't put the best bits in there, not always. There's no bit where Luke actually blows up the Death Star in the trailer for Star Wars but they do have light savers which are magnificent.

[What I Did] is a delightful, quick read. It gets ***** from me. ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Sep 16, 2013 |
Billy Wright is publically spanked by his father after he runs out into the street. A passerby informs social services and a child protection officer pays a visit to investigate. Things escalate and the suspicion of child abuse soon threatens to break up the family.

The strength and the weakness of the novel are the narrator, six-year-old Billy. At times the perspective and voice of a child are successfully achieved. Billy’s childish logic actually makes some of his behaviour very believable. For example, his actions when trying to run his bath himself make perfect sense when viewed from his perspective. Billy focuses only on things that directly affect him and he is continuously going off on tangents. That self-centeredness and short attention span are appropriate for a child. His understanding of the world is incomplete, as he himself admits, and so his misunderstandings are also appropriate.

Billy’s narration, however, also has problems. On the one hand, he constantly uses malapropisms; he doesn’t understand words that others use and so he repeats them incorrectly. For example, "nuclear" becomes "new clear" (266); "molecules" become "moluscules" (2); "suspense" becomes "suspension" (1); and "primates" become "prime-apes" (11). These malapropisms result in considerable humour: “Prairie dogs are very copulative animals. They copulate together very well in hunts and that is why their hunts are among the most successful in the animal kingdom” (7-8). Such misuse of words makes sense, but there are inconsistencies; at times, Billy uses vocabulary and phrasing that seem too advanced: “I want to tell Dad about this development but I would be the one speaking first if I did so I don’t” (28).

I got the impression that Billy has Asperger’s. In his restricted and repetitive interest in the animal kingdom, he demonstrates one of the most striking features of Asperger Syndrome. He uses his knowledge of animals to interpret virtually ("vertically" in Billy’s parlance) all human interaction. He compares people of animals: for example, his mother is a prairie dog because “She’s never tiring” and his father is a leopard for a number of reasons, among which is that “you shouldn’t ever get between a leopard and its cubs” (7). Some of Billy’s comparisons are very astute, perhaps too astute for such a young child.

Jim, the father, earns the reader’s sympathy. He finds himself in a situation that quickly spirals out of control. The novel clearly shows how things can easily be misinterpreted. I cringed when Billy tells of his father’s lesson on the use of swear words (182 – 185) because I could well imagine the reaction if child protection services became aware of it. The way in which the relationship between father and son is developed is wonderful; in particular, Billy’s constant repeating of what his father has told him indicates how close the two of them are. However, the way that Jim chooses to deal with the situation in which he finds himself is not convincing. He only makes matters worse for everyone. When one considers that he works in communications, his behaviour is all the more unrealistic, despite Billy’s assertion that “Yes, communication is extremely hard” (145).

Although the ending is anti-climactic and the characterization of a six-year-old is not always credible, the book does examine contentious issues such as the spanking of children and the (over?)reaction of child protection officials in some cases. ( )
  Schatje | Apr 4, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Six-year-old Billy runs into the street and his father reacts. A bystander witnesses the event and alerts the authorities. Narrated entirely by Billy, What I Did by Christopher Wakling describes the aftermath of the incident. Billy's narration is alternately charming, as only a six-year-old boy can be, and cumbersome, as Wakling devises awkward setups in order for Billy to be able to get the information he needs to relay to the reader. Obviously discussions of child abuse allegations and how they should be addressed are going to be adult-only conversations, but Billy manages to be in the right place at the right time. Though he may not be able to process and understand what he hears, he successfully passes along the pertinent information to the reader while he tries. An interesting story and commentary on our society, with an interesting perspective, but a bit far-fetched and awkward at times. ( )
  TheWordJar | Mar 19, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I haven't been able to finish this book. I didn't get very far because I just couldn't relate to the kid's point of view. Having kids myself, I thought this kid's thought processes were just too far fetched. Maybe I'll try again when I have nothing else to read. ( )
  lostbooks | Dec 6, 2012 |
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A memorable narrator in Billy, a precocious and headstrong British six-year-old who understands the world through nature shows. When Billy runs into a busy street, his father, fear turning to rage, spanks him before the eyes of a nosy jogger. The jogger promptly calls child services, beginning a terrifying odyssey in which concerned agents of the state try to protect the boy from what they see as an abusive father. Not comprehending the gravity of the situation, Billy makes comments that unintentionally incriminate his father and drive the entire family closer to the breaking point.… (more)

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