Blinky Bill Grows Up – Dorothy Wall

More in the Series – Blinky Bill
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

This is one of those “reading it so you don’t have to” situations. These really seem like the sort of stories that people would be very nostalgic for, but when you read them through modern eyes, they’re just not that good.

In this, the sequel, Blinky Bill goes on a bunch of adventures, during which he mostly acts like kind of an ass. He runs way because his mother wants to send him to school. He is outright rude and obnoxious to almost everyone he meets. It’s the ikkiest sort of ‘laddism’, full of ‘boys will be boys’ rhetoric and this idea that it’s somehow okay for him to be rude and selfish and destructive because, you know, he’s just a bit of a larrikin.

It does pass the Bechdel on at least one occasion, when Mrs Snake and Granny Goanna are discussing how they’re going to steal and eat bird babies, right before they get destroyed by bull ants on Blinky’s orders. But honestly there’s so much casual sexism (“All possums are silly, especially girls”) and one or two really quite racist bits about people in Australia who aren’t white. It’s just…it does not stand the test of time well is what I am saying.

On top of that, while C did give it a thumbs up, I can tell you that we had to stop in mid chapter on a regular basis while working our way through it because he got bored and didn’t want me to read any more. It’s slow moving, the language is pretty dated, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it much. There’s one more in the series, I believe, and we’ll read it – because that’s what I do – but I am looking forward to putting Blinky behind me.

Blinky Bill – Dorothy Wall

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel:  1 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

This book is definitely of its time. It does pass Bechdel, which is something. There are actually quite a few named female characters, and while most of them are framed as mothers or teachers, there area few conversations between them that do pass the Bechdel test.

Still, the gender roles are pretty firmly established. Blinky’s mother is never really anything except a mother, and his father is killed in the second chapter. Blinky is framed in very traditionally masculine terms – he’s disobedient and adventurous, but it’s always put in terms of him being a bit of a rapscallion (even when his behaviour is pretty awful).

Far from being diverse, the book is actively racist. Mr Wombat tells Blinky a bunch of stories, in which he or his family are almost killed by “Farmer Brown” and by “black people”. Despite the fact that Farmer Brown is trying to shoot him for eating his crops, the latter story is framed in terms of “wildness” and as if their hunting wombats for food is totally evil and wrong (in a way I guess killing them as agricultural pests apparently isn’t). And don’t even get me started on referring to people as “black fellows”. It was cringe-worthy enough that I couldn’t bring myself to read it as written and I had to reframe that bit of the story to make it less ikky to read.

I find Blinky mostly unlikeable, and the story isn’t even written that engagingly. While C did give it a thumbs up in the end, there were several times as we read through it where he put the bookmark in and said, “That’s enough for today, Mommy”. It’s a bit verbose, and could do with editing. Again, this is probably a sign of it being dated, but even so, I wasn’t sold even in terms of story.

I can see how it probably caters to a certain nostalgia, especially, perhaps, if you are Australian. I’m just not convinced that that particular brand of nostalgia is such a good thing.

Despite it’s Bechdel pass, I can’t quite bring myself to recommend this book. This is a good example of why Bechdel is great when measuring trends, but not so much as an individual metric.

Give it a skip. There are way better books out there.