First let me say that I am a huge fan of David Walliams. Specifically, his comedy. I love Little Britain, Walliams and Friend, and all his appearances on shows like The Big Fat Quiz. I really enjoy his comedic style, with his signature build-up, pause and dry punchline.
I already knew that Walliams had branched into children’s book writing, and that these books are extremely popular, but I didn’t realise just how popular until I read the Guardian Bestselling Books of 2017 list which he essentially dominated.
So, I decided to give them a go.
Not quite sure which one to try first, I went for the most intriguing title – The Boy in the Dress, which had a bright orange cover and amazing Quentin Blake illustrations. Hard to miss really. (I’ve since discovered that The Boy in the Dress was the first in the series, which was just perfect.)
To be fair, all Walliams’ books all have great titles: Gangsta Granny, Awful Auntie, Demon Dentist etc. As I was studying the bright jackets, I was reminded of the old Beano annuals my mother used to buy me and childhood Christmases in the company of Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and Beryl the Peril. Funnily enough, I was actually looking for another Christmas read.
The Boy in the Dress was unexpectedly delightful. It’s well written, charming, with a brilliant cast of characters, and best of all, Walliams’ signature comic timing. Raj the shopkeeper steals the show with his wry sales spin. I was in hysterics.
As for the boy in the dress … twelve-year-old Dennis Sims lives with his older brother John and lorry driver dad. The family aren’t that affectionate, but bond enormously over football, to which Dennis has a natural predilection.
But unbeknownst to his family, Dennis harbours a secret love of fashion, which endears him to his pretty classmate Lisa. The pair play dress up and parade around the town pretending that Dennis is a girl. This expression of his individuality leads to disaster. Not only is his father furious, but Dennis is expelled from school.
Now, as in any children’s book, this is the inevitable moment of conflict and resolution. But Walliams does something truly magical here. Instead of tumbling down the slide towards the conclusion, the reader is instead catapulted up into Walliams’ imagination where something wonderful happens that turns things around.
It’s marvellous. Goosebumpy, laugh out loud marvellous. I don’t want to say too much, as it has to be experienced first-hand, but it’s definitely made a fan out of me (which wasn’t hard, considering I was already a fan).
Long story short, this is exactly the kind of wickedly funny book all children should read. It’s not preachy, or silly – it’s pure whimsy and magic.