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Just William by Richmal Crompton
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Just William (1922)

by Richmal Crompton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Just William (1)

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I've heard about the Just William stories for years now, but for whatever reason, they haven't penetrated American shores. I was pleased and delighted, then, when a close friend sent me this edition of the original Just William collection for my birthday. Now, I'm more surprised than ever these are so unknown in the USA: William, while resolutely a British boy of the 1920s, clearly has the blood of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and O. Henry's Red Chief in his veins. Because the stories are British, there is no need to see William get more than a trifling comeuppance for his behavior; instead, Richmal Crompton's prose has a wonderfully dry way of both understating and slyly winking at everything William does. As a long-time fan of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, these were right up my alley, and I enjoyed them tremendously. ( )
  saroz | Jan 1, 2018 |
A delightful book. I found it the first time when it was mentioned in an off hand manner in a Dick Francis mystery. I had never heard of William. I'm thrilled to have finally found him. Thank you Dick Francis! I'm glad that my book group seemed to enjoy it. One person commented that it was a bit like PG Wodehouse for kids. I get lots of laughs each time I read it. I laughed so hard this time that my husband picked it up to read. I'm looking forward to the other books in the series. Looks like I'm set for awhile with these since there are 39 books in all! ( )
  njcur | Apr 28, 2017 |
I read the William books as a young child. They were red hardback books that I´d inherited from my older siblings. However, we didn´t have this particular book, so I´ve now read it for the first time.

William is the sort of boy who, if he were a real boy, and existed in this day and age, would probably be sent to an institution, or at the very least be heavily sedated with Ritalin, or something even worse.

Apart from William, the Brown family consists of Mr. and Mrs. Brown and William´s older siblings, Robert and Ethel.

Mrs. Brown is resigned and patient as regards William´s escapades, while Mr. Brown mostly contents himself with exclaiming “He´s mad, mad, I say!”

William´s exploits are actually more than minor misdemeanours and, instead of mildly putting up with them, it might have been more fitting had the parents set some firm limits. But then of course the book wouldn´t have been so funny.

This book was published in 1922 (I read the books for the first time in the 50s), and it contains quite a few old-fashioned and thus unfamiliar words and expressions. It is eloquently written; the author doesn´t talk down to the reader, and puts to good use her rich, extensive vocabulary.

One linguistic feature that puzzles me is that, while the rest of the family talk in an absolutely refined and educated manner, William, though gifted with amazing powers of persuasion and articulation, expresses himself in a distinctly ungrammatical and “common” way, which in fact more resembles the speech of their servants, (William´s family is middle-class, and they were endowed with both a Cook and a housemaid, as far as I recall, and perhaps more servants.)

In this book, William wanders into a nearby mansion and finds himself mistaken for a servant boy, “the new Boots” (whatever that is), and tries his hand at this, until it all ends tumultuously. In a later chapter his Great-Aunt Emily comes to visit; her only occupations are eating and sleeping, and when she sleeps she snores in an impressive and entertaining manner. The ever resourceful William avails himself of the opportunity to augment his pocket money by inviting the village children to come to witness/listen to this fascinating performance, and soon they´re all lining up and paying all they´ve got to witness the show. Subsequently, Great-Aunt Emily cuts short her stay, which had been threatening to become exceedingly long-lasting, and Mr. Brown, who was not enamoured of her, rewards William with half-a-crown. (And I recall a time when half-a-crown was quite a large sum!).

The book contains innumerable further hilarious episodes, including one in which Mrs. Brown was so irresponsible as to entrust William with looking after a toddler for the afternoon, though Robert was shocked at her naïve trust in her younger son.

I´m not a person that generally laughs aloud when watching a funny film or reading a funny book, but found myself doing so several times when reading this book. Since I´ve heard that laughing is extremely good for one, maybe I should read or re-read all the William books! I highly recommend them, including this one, to all. ( )
  IonaS | Apr 20, 2016 |
This book about 11-year-old William is good but suffered from the fact that I had recently read Booth Tarkington's "Penrod" (also about an 11-year-old boy). Crompton's stories were just not quite as humorous or as charming. However, perhaps a Brit might feel the reverse to be true.

I also found it a bit odd that the final chapter was about finding Jumble when Jumble had played a significant role in the previous chapter and had been present in several of the earlier chapters as well. ( )
  leslie.98 | Feb 26, 2016 |
"What have I just been saying, William?"
William sighed. That was the foolish sort of question that schoolmistresses were always asking. They ought to know themselves what they'd just been saying better than anyone. He never knew. Why were they always asking him? He looked blank. Then:
"Was it anythin' about participles?" He remembered something vaguely about participles, but it mightn't have been to-day.
Miss Jones groaned.
"That was ever so long ago, William," she said. "You've not been attending."
William cleared his throat with a certain dignity and made no answer.


William Brown is the bane of his parents' life, and his sister Ethel's life, and his brother Robert's. His best endeavours go awry and his attempts to talk his way out of trouble involve loud protestations of innocence, or at least of having meant well, but he doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes, managing to break three windows and hit a neighbour's cat in a single morning while practising with his new bow and arrow. He is also a barrack-room lawyer, trying to convince his mother that Tamers and Tigers is an entirely different game from the banned Tamers and Lions, and arguing with convoluted logic that his father had said he could have a party when he hadn't said any such thing.

This book was published in 1922, and the contemporary illustrations in the copy I downloaded from Project Gutenberg are great, showing men in suits, women in hats and dresses and scruffy little boys in shorts and caps. As it was written during the silent movie era, when William goes to the pictures he sees a keystone cops-style car chase and some romantic melodramas, which feed his fertile imagination and his romantic heart.

My favourite stories in this book are "The Show", "William Joins the Band of Hope", and "William and White Satin". William first meets his dog Jumble in the last story in the book, although Jumble has already appeared in a couple of stories earlier in the book, but I can see why the author put it where she did, as it leaves you with the image of a boy and his dog happily heading off for more adventures.

After tea William set off again down the road. The setting sun had turned the sky to gold. There was a soft haze over all the countryside. The clear bird songs filled all the air, and the hedgerows were bursting into summer. And through it all marched William, with a slight swagger, his bow under one arm, his arrows under the other, while at his heels trotted Jumble, eager, playful, adoring - a mongrel unashamed - all sorts of a dog. And at William's heart was a proud, radiant happiness. ( )
  isabelx | Feb 2, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richmal Cromptonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Henry, ThomasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It all began with William's aunt, who was in a good temper that morning, and gave him a shilling for posting a letter for her and carrying her parcels from the grocer's.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Available online at The Internet Archive:
https://archive.org/details/justwillia...

Also available at Project Gutenberg:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34414...
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There is only one Just William. The loveable imp has been harassing his unfortunate family and delighting hundreds of thousands of readers for years. Here the Outlaws plan a day of non-stop adventure. The only problem is, William is meant to be babysitting. But William won't let that stop him having fun with his gang - he'll just bring the baby along! 11 yrs+… (more)

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