William S. and the Great Escape: A Review

William S. and the Great Escape by Zilpha Keatley SnyderWilliam S. Baggett doesn’t plan on being a Baggett for much longer. He’s been scrimping and saving and soon he’s going to run away.

Turns out soon comes a lot faster than William expected. And with a lot more problems.

Being a Baggett, especially a little Baggett, isn’t easy at the best of times. But when Jancy’s pet guinea pig is flushed down the toilet by two older Baggetts she knows it’s time to leave. William knows too. Even if he would have liked more time to plan and save and, well, get older than twelve.

All of a sudden William, Jancy and the two smallest Baggetts are making their escape to find their aunt Fiona’s house and maybe someone who will actually care about them and welcome them. At least, they hope.

But it turns out running away is harder than William thought, especially with two little kids in tow. Getting some help from a lonely rich girl might be a big help. Or it might spell disaster for all of their non-Baggett plans in William S. and the Great Escape (2009) by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

William S. and the Great Escape is an interesting combination of runaway story set in 1938 and excerpts from Shakespeare* (William is a big fan of . . . that other William) as William tries to entertain his younger siblings. Snyder is no stranger to building suspense. The story is fraught with tension as the youngest Baggetts (and the reader) wonder if they will make it to Aunt Fiona’s and, more importantly, if she will let them stay.

Are the Baggett’s problems at home over the top? Is the plot improbable? Perhaps. But that’s kind of the point. Snyder puts together a little bit of the historical, a little bit of the dramatic, and a lot of humor and charm in this book to create a story that is pure fun and pure escapism for any reader.

*All of the quotes and Shakespeare related matters are set in an Old English style font so that they stand out. And may or may not be easier to skip if the reader is more interested in young William S. than in William Shakespeare.

Possible Pairings: The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood, The Secret Garden by France Hodgson Burnett, You Don’t Know Me by David Klass, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, Holes by Louis Sachar, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Exclusive Bonus Content: Sometimes silhouettes creep me out (long story) but despite that I am madly in love with this book’s cover. The illustration by David Frankland and the jacket design by Debra Sfetsios come together to create a real stunner

2 thoughts on “William S. and the Great Escape: A Review

  1. Zilpha Keatley Snyder has a HUGE soft spot in my heart, as she wrote the first book I ever checked out of a public library (“Below the Root” if you’re curious).

    Given how much I enjoyed that story, and my love of Shakespeare, I’m honestly hopeful that she can make The Bard a bit more approachable for my nine-year-old. So I will definitely give this book a shot.

    Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention.


    1. Now that you mention it, I think The Egypt Game is one of the first books I remember getting from the library.

      This is a great book to introduce Shakespeare (the main focus is The Tempest because William just played Ariel in the school play). She does a great job of making Shakespeare approachable and working in with the plot.

      Hope you and your son enjoy it!


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