Whatever by William Bee is charming and very funny. This spring, several of the librarians in my department passed this book around, taking turns sharing it at elementary schools. The book tells the story of Billy, a boy who is not easily impressed. No matter what his dad shows him (a giraffe, the world’s bounciest castle, or even the edge of outer space), Billy just responds with a bored expression and the word, “Whatever.” When I read this book aloud, I encourage my audience join in on the refrain of “Whatever,” and to say it with plenty of attitude. Near the end of the story, Billy’s dad tries to impress his son by introducing him to the world’s hungriest tiger. This fateful meeting leads to a surprise ending that makes many children and adults laugh out loud.
Though William Bee’s illustrations were created digitally, they look old-fashioned. Details in the illustrations hint that the story is set many decades ago. Billy’s dad wears a fedora, and at one point in the story he and his son ride on a steam-powered train. Some of the illustrations feature unusual patterns and designs. For example, a giraffe’s long neck is patterned with lines and numbers like a yardstick. Though the pictures are colorful and often busy, they are not overwhelming because they have plenty of white space surrounding them. I have enjoyed sharing Whatever with groups of students at elementary and middle schools. Although the book looks quite simple, its concept and humor appeal most to older children. This very short story makes for a nice break between longer books, or is a great way to end a read-aloud session with laughter.
Check the WRL catalog for Whatever.