Unexpected conversations take place in a hospital waiting rooms, while you are twiddling your thumbs. Recently, I ended up recommending the work of David Walliams to a young boy who was completely engrossed in a book by Roald Dahl. The boy was only 7+, and I made sure I informed his parents that Walliams' books are targeted at an older age group of at least 10+. Once I got home, I Googled Walliams (whom I have only a passing familiarity with) to see if my recommendation was correct. I was quite surprised by the wonderful nuggets of information I discovered, and therefore, decided to share it with you in this post.
David Walliams, is a British actor, comedian, author, television talent show judge and presenter. He is best known for his appearance on the BBC comedy show Little Britain. He is also a writer of children's books. He has sold more than 25 million copies, and his books have been translated into 53 languages (including Sinhalese!) He has been described as "the fastest growing children's author in the UK".
HIs writing style has been compared favourably to world-famous author Roald Dahl. A Roald Dahl fan would also instantly recognise the artwork in Walliams' first two books as being the work of Quentin Blake (whose talent brought all the Roald Dahl characters to life).
However, unlike Dahl who wrote primarily for a younger audience, the subject matter in the books of David Walliams is aimed at an older age group of Tweens and Teens. The themes explore topics such as death, cross-dressing, gender and abuse.
The Boy in the Dress
His first book The Boy in the Dress was launched in 2008. Written mainly on the themes of cross-dressing and gender norms, it is a funny tale that is also relevant in today's world. This is also probably his most controversial novel for children. It follows a 12-year-old boy named Dennis. When Dennis’ parents split up, he’s devastated to have to live with his father The only comfort he finds is in his mother’s left behind clothes. This sets off a series of comical transgender themes that allows the reader to light-heartedly enjoy his embarrassing explorations into the unknown. He makes a new friend, Lisa, and ultimately lives out his fantasy of wearing a dress. A lot of bullying and teasing follows. The book is written with humour (sometimes a bit rude) and heart, and the main lesson given at the end is that everyone has a right to be who they indeed are and you should not be afraid of being different.
Gangsta Granny was published in 2011. The protagonist Ben is bored beyond belief when he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the most boring grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble and eat cabbage soup. However, there are two things Ben doesn’t know.
His grandma was once an international jewel thief.
And, all her life, she has been plotting to steal the Crown Jewels, and now she needs Ben’s help! About two-thirds of the book is about their escapades (in a mobility scooter, mind you!). Their attempted jewel heist has an unexpected ending when they actually meet the Queen herself. However, that is not the most memorable part of the book. The latter part of the book takes a surprising turn that will leave your jaw on the floor - Ben's grandma dies of cancer! This is such an unusual turn of events in a children's book. But you have to applaud the author for dealing with such a serious topic as the death of a loved one with sensitivity and a different kind of humour. This is a book which teaches youngsters to deal with the inevitable losses they will experience in life.
The Ice Monster
David Walliams' latest book which was released just a few months ago, is Ice Monster. Unlike his usual very modern books, this is set in Victorian England. It is about a 10-year-old orphan Elsie who meets a woolly mammoth, whom she christens Woolly. It is 1899 and the first complete Woolly mammoth has been discovered in the Arctic. It is transported to the Natural History Museum and brought to life by electric shock (it was perfectly preserved, apparently). Then Elsie decides she must free her new friend, who is alone in the world, just like herself. The book is about overcoming challenges, be it an abusive orphanage or a museum, and friendship that comes from unlikely places. The story takes Elsie and her new friends on a whirlwind escape back to the arctic, to take Woolly home. There are a lot of mad escapes, chase sequences and pursuit by 'bad guys'. Walliams himself has admitted that although a lot of information about the Victorian Era is researched and accurate, there have also been a lot of liberties taken. The ending is what I found the hardest to swallow when Woolly finds his Mother! But I will leave it to you to read and evaluate.
The author's personal website has a wealth of information. https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/ It astounding how many of his books have been adapted to screen and stage! If you are already a fan, then you should definitely check it out!