What’s it all about?:
The sparkling debut children’s novel from David Walliams, co-creator and co-star of the multi-award-winning Little Britain. Dennis was different. Why was he different, you ask? Well, a small clue might be in the title of this book! Charming, surprising and hilarious — The Boy in the Dress is everything you would expect from the co-creator of Little Britain. David Walliams’s beautiful first novel will touch the hearts (and funny bones) of children and adults alike.
What did I think?:
I apologise here and now for ever doubting the power in children’s writing that is David Walliams. Chrissi and I read one of his titles, Gangsta Granny in our Kid-Lit challenge last year and we enjoyed it so much that I was really keen to put The Boy In The Dress, his debut novel on our list this year. Once again, I was completely bowled over by the amazing characters, fantastic story-line and characteristic humour throughout the book and of course, the little message within which all good children’s books should have, right?
The Boy In The Dress tells the story of twelve year old Dennis, a talented footballer for the school team who lives with his dad and his older brother, John. Dennis is having a bit of a rough time at the moment – his Mum has left and as a result, his father refuses to have any mention of her in the house, including photographs (although Dennis has managed to sneak away a rather blackened photo which he treasures and hides for fear of his Dad finding out). Dennis’s Dad is a long-distance lorry driver and is often out on jobs but when at home he binges on food and seems very depressed and Dennis has no idea how to deal with the situation. He just wants to give his Dad a hug and quite often needs a hug himself, but they don’t do that – well, except when he scores a goal in football but that’s different! His Mum was the “huggy” one in the family:
“Most children can’t wait to grow up and get bigger, but Dennis missed being small and being picked up by his mother. It was in her arms that he had felt most safe.”
Dennis also has quite a big secret. He loves Vogue magazine and hides it under his mattress so that his brother and Dad won’t find it – he dreads their reaction. When he is alone his favourite thing to do is look through the glossy pages and admire all the dresses that the models are wearing. And yes, unfortunately his Dad does find the magazine and his reaction confirms all of Dennis’s worst fears. However, one day at school the subject happens to come up with the most beautiful (and possibly coolest) girl in school, Lisa and she invites him to her house to look through all her copies of Vogue. Before long, with Lisa’s encouragement, he is trying on all of her wardrobe. With Lisa by his side, Dennis is also brave enough to let her dress him up complete with make-up and go into their school as “her French exchange student friend Denise,” in one of the funniest moments of the book, where no-one recognises him, not even his best friend Darvesh.
Of course, things cannot stay this happy and carefree for ever. Dennis is discovered in the dress and the reactions of his teachers, friends and family are terrible. Worse still for him, he is expelled from the school and cannot play in the final of the football match against a very prominent school. As their star player, the school is bound to lose the game so can the day be saved and by whom? More importantly, can his family and friends ever accept Dennis for who he is, dress and all?
I really loved this story, especially the message behind it making it quite an important book in my eyes for children to read, teaching them tolerance and acceptance which sadly, I feel that many don’t learn until they are quite a bit older. The illustrations in the book by the marvellous Quentin Blake, who is somewhat of a god to me anyway after he began illustrating Roald Dahl’s work, are just the icing on the cake of this story. Everyone should fall in love with Dennis, he is written so beautifully and a number of other characters like Lisa, Raj the shop-keeper and Darvesh, Dennis’s best friend are also brilliantly recognised. David Walliams has an undeniable talent for writing children’s books and I really hope he continues as his debut novel proves that he has abilities too strong to go unpublished and unread by generations of children.
For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):