Burglar Bill – Janet and Allan Ahlberg

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

I have to admit I have a bit of a soft spot for this book. There’s something about these criminal characters who actually aren’t that bad that I sort of like.

Having said that though, by the metrics of this project, it doesn’t do too well. There is only one female character so there can be no Bechdel pass, and the world of Burglar Bill is pretty whitewashed. On top of that, there’s the fact that although Burglar Betty obviously is quite feisty what with her life of crime and all, there’s a definite implication that she has only engaged in said life of crime because she’s a “widow-lady”. She also fits very neatly into prescribed gender roles with the whole wife and mother thing.

However, the fact that Bill does as well as he does when he discovers he’s accidentally absconded with a baby is heartening. There is way too much “men have no idea what to do with a baby” stuff floating around in the world, but Bill manages quite well.

Nevertheless, the story ends with them realising the error of their ways, getting married, Bill becomes a baker, and they become a nice upstanding family. Which, you know, is good, especially since their change of heart is borne out of empathy – Bill realises when he is burgled that being burgled is actually kind of crappy.

So there’s a nice message there about changing your ways and being a better person when you realise you’re maybe not being such a great person. But they do embrace a very “normal” life, and part of me balks at that a little.

Having said all that, like I said at the start, I have a real soft spot for this book. It is written wonderfully, is really quite fun to read and the illustrations are pretty great.

So despite its low score, it may be worth a read anyway.

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