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Willie Wins

Willie is having a rough day. He has already struck out in a Little League game, and now he must find a savings bank for a contest at school -- by tomorrow! Dad has just the answer. It's an alkansiya, a bank made out of a coconut shell from the Philippines, where Dad grew up. He's been saving it for Willie because of a surprise inside, a treasure Dad got when he was a boy. Willie reluctantly takes the bank to school, knowing he will be teased by his classmates for having such an unusual bank. In the weeks that follow, Willie works hard at saving his play money to win the contest. But as he works he also wonders, what will the surprise in his bank be? Is it really something special?
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Gr 2-3-A classroom project challenges students to bring in a bank to save play money, which their teacher pays for extra credit. Willie's bank is a hand-me-down alkansiya, a hollowed-out coconut from his father's native Philippines, a gift his dad assures him contains a treasure. Willie puts his nose to the grindstone for a month, trying to ignore loudmouth Stan, who denigrates his poor baseball skills and nontraditional bank, and also voices skepticism about the coconut's contents. In the end, Willie is declared the winner; breaking open the bank reveals a valuable Willie Mays baseball card from 1964. The story is filled with clich?s: bully white kid, supportive (minority) best friend, happy endings in class and at home. Angel's roughly executed acrylic paintings boldly flesh out the character-thin plot. The depictions of classroom kids and Willie and his dad are Rockwellian in emotional manipulation (open mouths, exaggerated expressions) but curiously devoid of feeling. The one cultural tidbit gleaned; the mild anticipation generated by the climactic bank-smashing; and, of course, Willie's vindication, don't save this sugarcoated tale.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Willie gets tired of hearing his father's stories about growing up in the Philippines, and he's embarrassed by the alkansiya, a coconut-shell piggy bank, that his father has given him for a school project on saving money. Even his father's assurances that there's something very special tucked inside a treasure saved from his own childhood doesn't help. And when one of his Little League teammates, the class bully, taunts, "That's a loser's bank," Willie is really worried. "What if Dad's treasure wasn't really a treasure, but something only Dad thought was special, like the wooden water buffalo he kept on his desk?" When the big day arrives and all the children open their banks to see who earned the most play money by doing extra schoolwork, not only does Willie come out on top and win tickets to the circus, he also finds his father's 1964 Willie Mays baseball card inside. Debut author Gilles's tale tries too hard, its didacticism showing through the storytelling. Angel's (Mga Kuwentong Bayan: Folk Stories from the Philippines) acrylic paintings attempt a sturdy realism punched up with strong brushwork and a bright palette anchored by shades of purple. His figures, however, are stiff and unnatural, problems exacerbated by the many group compositions. Ages 4-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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