The Adventures of Uncle Billy Ross Kirkus Book Review
—but Phillips is confident enough to depart from the lessons to allow the pair to digress into discussions of their own one-to-one relationship. As such, the book makes for an effective drama of self-improvement.
A boy and his uncle sort out life and responsibilities in a series of conversations in Phillips’ novel.
Ross Miller, the Black 13-year-old boy at the heart of this slim parable, is the skinny, earnest son of a hardworking single mother. They live in a part of a city with little funding for schools, but Ross uses his uncle’s address in a different county in order to attend a better school there—one with “newer, cleaner, and brighter buildings with much better equipment, science labs, and sports facilities,” among other benefits. This arrangement brings young Ross into frequent contact with his 67-year-old Uncle Billy, and the bulk of the book consists of conversations between the two. Uncle Billy has a lifetime of experiences and a large amount of practical wisdom to impart to the youth, and his tough-love manner successfully gets the boy to question his own behavior and “how he acted around his friends, his teachers, his friends’ parents.” Uncle Billy’s discussions range over what he sees as key essentials of growing up and how to be a person who understands the value of honor and personal responsibility; he also talks with the young man about Black history. Phillips saves this setup from being aridly didactic by highlighting Ross’ and Uncle Billy’s distinct personalities and by having them laugh and squabble in addition to teaching and learning. Uncle Billy offers philosophical advice about how, for instance, Ross can shape the company he keeps—“Shun the people you know you don’t want to be anything like. If not, you will inevitably be them”—but Phillips is confident enough to depart from the lessons to allow the pair to digress into discussions of their own one-to-one relationship. As such, the book makes for an effective drama of self-improvement.
A thought-provoking and sometimes-touching series of life lessons passed down from uncle to nephew.
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Solon Phillips, Esq., is an award-winning author whose work has been included in books, legal treatises, and law review articles. He writes, speaks, and teaches extensively on socio-religious issues and all matters dealing with the law, family, theology, and what he calls the law of faith.