The book is fascinating from a distance, just looking at the cover. The red, glossy
border with the title in thick whimsical letters NOT ME, a snappy, catchy title, but
what does it mean? The cover illustration is of a furry lime-green, creature with a
purple tail and horns, with the words not me swirling around on each side. The book
is by Stanley R. Williams. I couldn't help but to wonder, is this some new version of a
Stanley "Tookie" Williams children's book. has he graced the world with some
posthumous creativity, in the mold of Tupac? It seems kind of cutesy for a Tookie
So who is this Stanley R. Williams? I flip the book over and look at the back cover. I
learn that the author is from Michigan, a former prison guard, and ex-Marine, and
currently is a teacher, with a wife and a cat. The illustrator is listed on the back,
Jennifer Savillo. I am interested by this author illustrator tandem, who have their first
book on the PublishAmerica book label. The softcover book has that professional
look and feel that say "quality".
I open it, skip the acknowledgments and dedication, and start looking in the book. It
is about a teacher, Mr. Wilson, and some of his class is misbehaving. When Mr.
Wilson finds a likely suspect, for instance asking a boy with red hands, if he got red
paint on the computer equipment, the only answer he gets, is "Not Me". After several
incidences of likely suspects claiming their innocence by announcing "Not Me', Mr.
Wilson is driven to frustration.
He calls in the principal, and quits on the spot. He says that his class is cursed by his
presence, since the creature NOT ME has found him here at his new school, (it
follows him wherever he goes, according to Mr. Wilson). He says he is going to go
live in the woods, and the creature will follow him there, thus saving the class from
having to deal with NOT ME.
The principal calls the office, and asks for a substitute, because, as he sees it, Mr.
Wilson has "lost his mind". A mean uncaring substitute, Mr. Sternbladder, replaces Mr.
Wilson. He has bad breath, a worse temper, and beady eyes. When a student asks him
if he likes kids. Mr. Sternbladder laughs and tells the class he likes kids "WHEN
THEY ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN". Yhe class is mortified and come to
realize that they blew a good thing when they drove their beloved Mr. Wilson to the
brink of apparent madness.
It would not be sporting to reveal the surprise, twist that ends the book, but the class
does see the error of their ways. They confess their misdeeds and beg the principal to
see if he can get Mr. Wilson to take his class over again. They feel that they have
triggered an unwelcome encounter with "the meanest substitute in the whole world".
The principal says he will see what he can do, although he "doesn't know which
woods Mr. Wilson is living in, and this is a very woodsy area".
This book is superbly written, by someone who obviously has a great feel for the
flow of the American elementary classroom. It is hugely funny with dialog and
situations that border on the ridiculous, told with a straight face. The artwork is
sublime, bringing the characters and situations to life, and complimenting the fun with
delicious little details scattered through the classroom that elicit extra chuckles, and
add depth to the story. Many children's books are frankly, boring for the adult to read
to children. This book will make adults look for a child to read to, so they have an
excuse to read it again themselves. This is the rare children's book that works on
enough levels to leave adults thinking they love it even more than the children they
read it to. Williams and Savillo are are a potent, intoxicating mix, that will make kids
and adults sit on pins and needles until story-time comes around again.