Thursday 7 July 2016
Most people probably know David Walliams as either one half of the comedy team behind ‘Little Britain’, or as a judge on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. Fewer of you will know that David Walliams is also a best-selling author of children’s books, both novels and picture books. As I’m a fan of ‘Little Britain’, it shouldn’t be such a surprise that I also enjoy his books, both novels and picture books. And the latest offering from Walliams is The World’s Worst Children which is a compilation of short stories about really horrible kids. Ten really horrible kids to be exact.
Making a cameo in The World’s Worst Children is Walliams recurring character, Raj, the newsagent who’s always out to make a pound. Cameo might be too generous of a term to describe his appearance in this book, where he contributes a two-page introduction, and appears only in illustration throughout the book. He also features on the back cover begging us not to read the book, and that becomes particularly pertinent when you start getting into the stories. Walliams uses Raj in the introduction to poke fun at himself as the author, and it’s that self-deprecating nature that makes him a great comedian and a fun author to read.
Back to Raj’s warning. Walliams delights in, and is exceptionally good at, appealing to kids especially when it comes to gross things . . . like Dribbling Drew, Peter Picker, and to a lesser extent Nigel Nit-Boy, and Grubby Gertrude. Now I can stomach all manner of things: I can watch surgeries, horror movies, deal with poo and pee and spew, but Walliams’ descriptions of the seas of dribble that come from Drew’s mouth, and the giant snot ball that Peter Picker creates are too much for me. That being said, the one thing that utterly, utterly grosses me out is snot, so it was obvious to me from the title of the Peter Picker story that I wasn’t going to be dealing all that well with this horrible child. However, I never expected Nigel Nit-Boy or Dribbling Drew to catch me like they did.
There are other horrible kids described in the book who won’t make you want to throw up when you or your kids are reading it. If you work in education, I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen or know all of these kids – Miss Petula Perpetual-Motion, Bertha the Blubberer, Windy Mindy, and Sofia Sofa are ones you’ll be able to identify in your class quite easily. But I’ll bet good money that you’ll know an Earnest Ernest (who never smiles or laughs, and clearly has no sense of humour) and Brian Wong Who Was Never, Ever Wrong – those are absolutely boys you’ll know from your school.
He’s got a way with words, ol’ David Walliams, that will sucker kids in to reading. And it’s not just his descriptions that enrapture, but also the way that the text is often written on the page, using interesting fonts, following non-linear lines, utilising bold and italics to get the ideas across so that the text becomes an important explanatory pert of the story, and not just simply words. How the words look on the page helps to make the story as interesting as Tony Ross’ illustrations.
Taking over from legendary Quentin Blake, Ross has been the illustrator of six of Walliams’ eight novels, and all three of his picture books. He maintains the form and style that Blake started with, and this gives Walliams’ novels a sort of Roald Dahl feel. I happened to purchase the hardcover edition with colour plates, which is billed as the gift edition. It’s a little smaller than a regular hardcover or paperback, but the coloured illustrations are worth the extra $$, I think. And I thought that I read somewhere that the coloured version is printed in a limited run, but I’ve been unable to find the original article that I read it in so I can’t confirm if this is correct.
If you want to get your kids into reading, or your kids are already into reading and you want to get them into something fun that won’t take all that ling to read, pick up a copy of David Walliams’ The World’s Worst Children . . . and then give it a read yourself. It took me less than half an hour to get through the book from cover to cover, but you could probably eke it out by reading your kids a story a night. It’s available in paperback, hardcover, hardcover with coloured illustrations, e-book, and audio book.