The World's Worst Children by David Walliams and Tony Ross
|The World's Worst Children by David Walliams and Tony Ross|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Another book that is just perfect for the young lad (or ladette) at primary school. This should sell just as much as the full-length books, which would make a change.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: May 2016|
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
At last David Walliams has produced a book for me. I'm damned sure the previous ones (eight full novels and four picture books, and counting) are fine enough quality for me to consider, but I'm contrary. Whether the author sells ten copies or a million I'll look for the more esoteric titles on their list – the essays not the novels, the short stories that get ignored and not the big-sellers, the Lee Scoresby spin-off and not the full His Dark Materials. But if you think that makes me bad – a reviewer who can spout about only the less populist works – I'm sure you will agree, after reading these pages, that I could be a heck of a lot more bad, if I tried. The children here, what's more, don't have to try.
So we have a lad who likes to sleep – and therefore drool – as much as anyone alive. We have a girl who likes nothing more than crying her head off – and crying wolf as well. We have a girl who can make a penguin fly – well, she can never stop moving. You do wonder if the surname Perpetual-Motion had any cause or effect there, much as is the case with Peter Picker, the lad with the world's largest bogey collection. Yes, a few times we do get into the typical boyish fascination with body parts – a very farty girl, an adult forced to let out a little wee when something makes him laugh too much, and the appeal of stinky feet and untidy bedrooms, but a lot of the time we don't go down the most obvious road.
For a start, while a couple of the tales have strong and blatant morals attached, seldom is the ending particularly predictable. The comeuppances – for anyone and everyone – are quite varied. Sometimes things are taken to the extreme, but not always. Some of the characters here are certainly not what you'd peg as one of the world's worst children – the world's stuffiest and po-faced, perhaps, or the world's best mathematical prodigy. Even when we find stereotypical characters – smelly schoolchildren, hyperactive schoolchildren, couch potatoes – Walliams manages to give us something new.
Something else one could call new, and hyperactive, is the page design. I am sure someone somewhere has intended for this book to break the World Record for largest number of fonts used. There is always a kinetic spread of font sizes, word positioning, characterful lettering and more. Not just once are the words upside down shown upside down, and you can just imagine what happens when someone does a cartwheel. The fact the script can be at right-angles to the page, or white on black, don't necessarily mean this will scupper the reluctant reader (if anything, they will need projectile vomiting spelled out to them, but that's all) – instead they will surely see the devil-may-care attitude to correct line use, and rebellion against the form of the average book, as being things that only add to the appeal of these pages.
It's not just the look that's completely rebellious, whimsical, sensibly silly, and lively. The brio of the stories – all roughly at the twenty page mark, minus copious illustrations – is in the content as well, and once again Walliams will strike a chord with his target audience. There are no attempts made at linking the stories, beyond the sniffy views of a certain Indian corner shopkeeper, as all the schools involved are different, and never does one tale inflect on another. But I think this book is stronger for being positively and definitively a selection of stand-alone short stories. For some reason, it's a fact that short story collections for the young don't go down as well as far as sales are concerned. I'm sure – and the first week figures for it suggest I'm right – that this will be another huge hit. Walliams has freed the format of short stories for all other authors to engage with, and the crew that have made these pages all as energetic to look at have freed anyone to feel a connection with these inherently unstuffy tales. That's why nobody really begrudges Walliams' success as a children's author – nobody can really find fault with his books. So, chances are I've actually got round to critiquing a million-seller.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The World's Worst Children by David Walliams and Tony Ross is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2016.
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