Showing posts with label David Walliams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Walliams. Show all posts

Friday, 5 October 2012

Friday book review - Ratburger by David Walliams

David Walliams is the fastest growing children’s author in the UK  – so children aged nine and up will be thrilled to hear that his fifth novel has hit the bookshops.

Like its predecessors, Ratburger is hilarious, sad and at times downright revolting. It isn’t for children of a nervous disposition but most young readers will laugh uproariously from start to finish – in between gasping in horror at Burt, Walliams’s evil, burger-van driving new villain.

Walliams excels at writing uproarious, laugh-out loud stories that combine humour and heart, and this one’s no exception. Zoe, his latest young heroine, has a back story that brings tears to your eyes. Her mum died when she was a baby, her dad’s lost his job at the local ice cream factory and Zoe’s got a horrible new stepmother called Sheila who eats prawn cocktail crisps all day and is so idle she asks Zoe to pick her nose for her.

The only bright spot in Zoe’s lonely life is Gingernut, her pet hamster – but that ends in tears when Zoe finds him dead in his cage. She suspects Sheila might have had something to do with Gingernut’s sudden demise but as she says, “what kind of person would want to murder a defenceless little hamster?”

But one night Zoe hears a baby rat scrabbling in the corner of her room and decides to adopt him as her new pet. Desperate to hide the rodent from the wicked Sheila, she takes him to school in her blazer pocket and calls him Armitage (after spotting the name Armitage Shanks in the girls’ toilets).

With brilliant illustrations by Tony Ross, this story is great for boys and girls alike. Walliams is a huge fan of the late, great Roald Dahl and children who enjoy Dahl's books will definitely like this.

Ratburger by David Walliams (HarperCollins, £12.99) 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

View of the Olympics from France - and David Walliams's new book

The south of France is usually heaving with UK visitors at this time of year. But in sun-baked Avignon I didn’t spot any British tourists at all (apart from us, that is). The newsagents’ stack of English newspapers looked untouched and there wasn't a whisper of an English accent at the historic Palais des Papes.

I suspect most people are at home glued to the Olympics. And come to think of it, maybe the French are too. 

Our neighbours at the House With No Name popped across the field to say hello yesterday and told us they’d been watching the Games avidly.

“What did you think of the opening ceremony?" my daughter asked them, wondering what on earth they’d made of Mr Bean, Mary Poppins, the Queen apparently parachuting out of a helicopter and hundreds of children jumping up and down on luminous hospital beds. Serge, our neighbour smiled benignly. ‘C’etait bon, mais très bizarre,’ he said.

Good, but strange. Hmmm. I reckon that just about sums it up.

PS. My review of David Walliams’s wonderful Gangsta Granny is one of the best-read House With No Name posts. So loads of readers will be thrilled to hear that Walliams’s fifth children’s novel will be published on September 19. Ratburger, illustrated by the inimitable Tony Ross, promises to be a treat. It’s the tale of a lonely little girl called Zoe and her ice cream loving father who battle to save Zoe’s newly adopted rat, Armitage, from the clutches of a villain called Burt. Walliams is the fastest growing children’s author in the UK and publisher HarperCollins describes his new story as “packed full of zest, jeopardy and classic Walliams wit.” Walliams himself says it’s his “scariest and funniest book yet.” Watch this space for a House With No Name review.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Friday book review - The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 30th anniversary of Sue Townsend’s bestselling The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾. It seems no time at all since I first read it and so many details, from Adrian’s spots to his obsession with Pandora Braithwaite, have stayed in my head to this day.

Penguin has just brought out a special edition of the book to celebrate (with a foreword by mega-Mole fan David Walliams). And if that’s not enough, Townsend’s new novel has just been published in hardback.

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year is the story of Eva Beaver, a 50-year-old wife and mother who reacts in a very extreme way when her teenage twins leave home for university. Eva disconnects the phone, chucks tomato soup over her favourite armchair and goes to bed, not for a quick kip, but for a whole year.

After spending her entire married life looking after her astronomer husband Brian and their gifted but distinctly odd children, she wants some time to think.

As word spreads about Eva’s bizarre behaviour, an army of onlookers gathers outside the house. Some are convinced she’s an angel with special powers, while others swamp her with fan mail and set up a ”Woman in Bed” Facebook page in her name.

With her own family utterly wrapped up in themselves, the only kindness comes from two strangers – the window cleaner and a dreadlocked white van man who helps her empty her bedroom of everything except her bed and paints the whole room white. Her mother is as mystified as everyone else and tells a local TV news team that Eva’s always been “a bit strange.”

The Woman Who Went To Bed for a Year is a patchy read and it’s occasionally hard to keep track of all the walk-on characters, but it’s also a funny, poignant and often bleak look at modern family life. One moment you’re chuckling at Eva’s tortuous instructions to her inept husband on how to “do” Christmas. The next you’ve got a lump in your throat at the ghastliness of being married to a two-timing husband who’s more interested in who’s going to cook his dinner than in talking to his wife. Actually, I reckon Brian’s bedtime routine – which involves gargling, spitting and hunting for spiders under the bed with a fishing net  - would be grounds for divorce. Let alone his affairs, sludge-coloured clothes and dreadful mother.

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend (Michael Joseph, £18.99)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Friday book review - Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

I used to find David Walliams (and Little Britain too) plain annoying. But now I’m going to have to eat my words. Firstly because he did that amazing swim for charity along the murky River Thames and secondly because he’s fast becoming a writer to be reckoned with.

I adored Billionaire Boy, his third children’s book, which I picked as one of my Christmas reads last year. Sweetly dedicated to his supermodel wife Lara Stone, it’s the story of Joe Spud, the richest 12-year-old in the world. He’s got 500 pairs of Nike trainers, a grand-prix race track in his garden and a house that’s visible from outer space. In short, Joe has everything a boy could want – except, sniff, a friend.

Now Walliams’s new book, Gangsta Granny, is out – and even though I didn’t love it quite as much as Billionaire Boy it’s hugely entertaining. This one’s the story of 11-year-old Ben, who thinks his granny is the most boring person on earth. All she wants to do when he stays the night is play Scrabble and, even worse, she serves up disgusting cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage mousse for his tea. When he tips one gigantic portion of soup into a pot plant and hurriedly tells her it was “yummy,” she's so pleased she immediately serves up a second bowlful.

In this funny, touching and at times sad story, Walliams cleverly reminds children that just because their grandparents might be old doesn’t mean they haven’t led exciting lives.

As he says: “Ben couldn’t imagine what Granny would have been like young. He had only known her as an old lady. He even imagined she had been born an old lady. That years ago when her mother had given birth and asked the midwife if it was a boy or a girl, the midwife might have replied, ‘It’s an old lady!’”

But even though Ben’s granny has white hair, false teeth and used tissues tucked up her sleeve, it turns out that she has a deep, dark secret he would never have guessed in a million years – one that plunges him into an amazing adventure. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.

Brilliantly illustrated by Tony Ross, Gangsta Granny would make a great Christmas present for boys or girls aged nine to 12.

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams (HarperCollins, £12.99)
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