The Parent Agency by David Baddiel

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The Parent Agency by David Baddiel

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Barry's fed up with his mum and dad for lots of reasons, starting with the fact that they called him Barry. And when he gets the chance to choose new parents, he jumps at it. Anything's got to be better than his present life, right?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780007554492

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Barry likes football (especially if Lionel Messi's playing), James Bond and lists. He doesn't like his two sisters, who tease him mercilessly and get away with all sorts of meanness right under his parents' noses. All his mates have cool names and even cooler parents, and their tenth birthday parties were amazing. His family, on the other hand, just can't manage the simplest thing he asks of them. He knows they're not well off, and he doesn't blame them for that, exactly, but going up to double figures is a big deal and deep in his heart he really does feel they could make a bit more effort. Well, actually, a lot more effort.

So when frustration with his family leads him to misbehave and he's banished to his room, he is ready and willing for a change. Somehow, with the help of his heroes Bond and Messi, he's whisked away to a land where parents don't have children as a right, but have to beg, bribe or plead their way to a family, and he feels things are going his way at last. In this new and exciting world it's the children who get to choose, and he sets out with great enthusiasm to road-test a few couples for twenty-four hours to see if they're the people he wants to spend his life with. Oddly enough, as he moves from home to home, the same people keep turning up in the background, including a man and woman who seem vaguely familiar. . .

Once the basic premise is established, there aren't many surprises in this story, nor is the outcome of his searching really in doubt. Even the children who run the Parent Agency, and who somehow look just like people he thinks he used to know, begin to find him a teensy bit too demanding. The pleasure of this story lies in the comic excesses of the parents he chooses, and their frantic, over-the-top efforts to persuade him to stay with them. He makes his choice of five pairs of candidates based on the fact that they are the exact opposite of his parents' worst shortcomings, and he soon finds himself surrounded by offers of wealth, fame and freedom. Readers will laugh out loud at the ridiculous situations he gets himself into, the eccentricity of the adults, and the abundance of smelliness, stickiness and general gloopiness. After all, if in doubt, throw in a bucket of sick or a cow-pat!

There is, of course, a happy ending (some readers may feel a happier one that Barry deserves) and while the moral of the story is somewhat transparent, the energy and enthusiasm of the story-telling compensate to a large extent. It's funny and silly, and will, at the very least, while away a wet afternoon.

If you like funny, try books by the other David – Walliams, that is. He has a wild and zany humour that appeals to young readers. Bookbag enjoyed Billionaire Boy, Ratburger, Demon Dentist and especially The Boy in the Dress which is illustrated by the fabulous Quentin Blake. We've also enjoyed AniMalcolm by David Baddiel and Jim Field. For more from Badiel, try The Person Controller.

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