Danny Dread by Ben Davis

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Danny Dread by Ben Davis

Buy Danny Dread by Ben Davis at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A book that perhaps goes too far in trying to veer away from what it's derivative of, but might still entertain the right reader.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: August 2015
Publisher: OUP Oxford
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780192742636

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Meet Danny Dread. He's a pupil at Demento's Academy for Young Evil Geniuses, where classes range from bank robbery and 'applied superhero torture' to creating flying craft and machines with which to do the most dastardly deeds, and where the head mistress is only too pleased to see bullying happening in the corridors. Now meet Mynah Boy – freshly costumed, and talented inasmuch as he can mimic lots of people and things. He might not be the world's best superhero, but neither is Danny Dread the world's best villain – the Dread family have slowly been getting worse at being evil, and Danny is so hopeless he can't even kill a fly. You might think they'll be set up for the most clumsy, calamitous adventure against each other, until you learn that actually they're one and same lad – but things will still get clumsy and calamitous enough…

Now, I know I'm supposed to review the book and not the blurb, especially as all I have in front of me is a proof copy, but here we go. Despicable Me meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid is one reference, and here's one for The Incredibles. I'll go a few further. The very fact this has a naffly evil adult trying to make evil children is certainly Despicable Me, but add in the world's worst superhero and you have a PG-certificate Dave from Kick-Ass. You also, in these pages, get a pelican that models after Scrat from the Ice-Age movies, but the least said about that the better. The thing is that a book that bases itself on so broadly obvious yet diverse references can work, and this is proof. It's just… well, I had to have my evening meal.

I know that sounds particularly flippant, but something changed in the reading of this book, and I can't blame it all on my digestive system. Suffice to say, however, that I was enjoying the broad, energic and chutzpah-laden way old tropes were borrowed and combined in a very new and enjoyable way, and yet, when I returned to it after a suitable break, I found the whole thing a little too messy. It tried too hard to give us the cartoonish japes of a full-length movie, it knew it had to be more than a few cod references but got a little too random, and while trying to cover all bases it missed a few.

That said, it still had the energy and broadness I'd enjoyed. The blurb of my copy also makes great store by Ben Davis being a stand-up, and the comedy here does make you laugh – it certainly brought out a few loud bursts of it here. But that doesn't mean he's the world's most concise author, and I don't think this is quite concise enough. It has a wide ranging adventure, and while gearing up to be the first book in a series never reads as merely being an introductory episode. If anything, this has too much in it, and the coherence was lost a little for me. I felt the combination of so many recognisable elements, with the invention and craft to make them this franchise's own, allowed for one of those brilliant, exciting, large print 160pp books for the under-twelves that even the most grumpily middle-aged would also enjoy. It's a pity then that this is a 240pp medium print work, over-egging the pudding and too unaware of how enjoyable unoriginality can, in the right hands, be.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The same author has previously given us a brilliant series for a slightly older audience, beginning with The Private Blog of Joe Cowley by Ben Davis. Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody by Roland Chambers and Ella Okstad is a different adventure, which has a slightly more feminine bent and is all the more enjoyable for it.

Buy Danny Dread by Ben Davis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Danny Dread by Ben Davis at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Danny Dread by Ben Davis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Danny Dread by Ben Davis at Amazon.com.


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