Horrid Henry's A - Z of Everything Horrid by Francesca Simon

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Horrid Henry's A - Z of Everything Horrid by Francesca Simon

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: A lexicon of the world behind the characters, this nicely produced hardback will delight Horrid Henry's and Moody Margaret's hard-core fans, while many a parent will snort in delight at the anarchic spirit of naughtiness that Henry embodies (while sending thanks for not actually having to cope with a Henry of their own). Obviously, no smelly-toady-goody-two-shoes are allowed to put their scrubbed-clean hands on this book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? No
Pages: 160 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444002263

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Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry is a very popular little boy, although you might have a different opinion if you actually had to put up with his antics yourself. A slightly modernised embodiment of slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tails concept of boyhood, Henry is naughtiness personified, combining irreverence for authority with a huge dose of gross-out crude humour that really appeals to the target readership of early primary school children. Add a somewhat nostalgic, timeless feel, trademark alliterations, subtle (and not so subtle) digs at family dynamics, sibling rivalry and particularly at modern middle-class manners and sensibilities and you have a winning character and a base for a very successful edutainment franchise.

Horrid Henry's A - Z of Everything Horrid, like the annuals and compilations, rides on the back of the popularity of the stories and TV cartoons, appealing both to children's passion for collecting and their affinity for character-based products.

Offering a real insight into Horrid Henry's world, Horrid Henry's A - Z will delight any child fan (and many an adult will also enjoy a sneaky read) with entries on such Horrid Essentials as Boom-Box, Purple Hand, Secret Club, School Trips, Gross Out and all the main and support characters, from babysitters (including Rabid Rebecca and Mellow Martin) to Soaky Sid and Vomiting Vera.

I have a feeling that the A – Z has a significant parent appeal – probably more so than the story books themselves. As all efforts at world building, it reveals a mindset behind the characters and it is a delightful anarchic and yet a rather benign one (although obviously not when you are Perfect Peter being called a wet nappy and baby by a bullying older brother), with hardly a moral lesson in sight. I snorted at parents who only keep a tiny-weeny TV in the house (I suppose I am worse with until recently none at all) and insist on pointless walks in the countryside, writing thank-you letters (as I never had to do it as a child, I hate making my children write thank you letters, and the idea of having to write them makes me – almost – give up on presents) and have a temerity of taking kids out to eat at the Virtuous Veggie restaurant and only allowing educational computer games. The worst scorn is, of course, reserved for Perfect Peter, and the utterly politically incorrect picture of that vegetable-loving, golden-haired, sweet-smiled admirable little toad will delight anybody who was ever subject to sibling jealousy. Among all that, Horrid Henry's unbroken spirit reigns supreme, providing succour and lough-out-loud joy to all not-so-perfect children and not-so-perfect parents (who might as well recognise themselves in Henry's long-suffering mum and dad).

The book is a large—format hardback with plenty of (hilarious) Tony Ross's pictures and would make a good gift for Henry's fans. Horrid Henry's A - Z of Everything Horrid is pitched at the 'confident readers' who are the target audience of the main series of Henry books. Although there are Horrid Henry early readers, I feel that Horrid Henry's A - Z of Everything Horrid is best read quietly rather than shared while being read aloud. The format of a lexicon is also at some remove from the directness of a story and will be more appreciated by a slightly more mature reader.

Horrid Henry's fans will like Horrid Henry Rocks and these thank-you letters get the treatment they deserve in Horrid Henry's Thank You Letter. The franchise has also non-fiction. George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl appeals to similar audience, and we even have a whole list of Top Ten Books For Children Who Think That Farts Are Funny.

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Buy Horrid Henry's A - Z of Everything Horrid by Francesca Simon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Horrid Henry's A - Z of Everything Horrid by Francesca Simon at Amazon.com.

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