HarperCollins Children’s Books Posts

David Walliams’s “The World’s Worst Children 2”

My review-article of David Walliams’s The World’s Worst Children 2 was published in The Hindu Literary Review on 3 September 2017 titled “The boy who never did his homework“. I am c&p the text here as well: 

David Walliams’s The World’s Worst Children 2 is a fabulous collection of short stories about 10 obnoxious little brats. There is Cruel Clarissa, Harry who never ever did his homework, Competitive Colin, Trish the Troll, Spoiled Brad, Gruesome Griselda and others. The scrumptious book has been “illustratred in glorious colour” by Tony Ross. (The very Tony Ross, who, statistics show, is the most borrowed illustrator from U.K. libraries. In 2016, his books were borrowed more than 1 million times.) Walliams and Ross have been collaborating on books for children and young adults for quite a few years now.

Walliams is often considered to be the modern Roald Dahl. Incidentally, Walliams’s first book for children was illustrated by Quentin Blake, who is known for his illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books. Along with Ross, Walliams insists there be a picture on every page. The two books of the TheWorld’s Worst Children is sumptuously produced, with embossed lettering on the cover, gilt foil worked in to the design, and four-colour illustrations with a fascinating play of fonts throughout the text. Every page has the illustration carefully

placed in such a manner that it perfectly complements the text.

Climb a mountain

It works beautifully for young readers as well as for readers who require assisted learning. “It’s about hooking them in and not making reading seem like a chore,” Walliams says. “I think reading is important because not only do you miss out on great literature if you don’t do it, but also you miss out on finding out about new ideas and the opportunity to use your own imagination.”

Walliams is otherwise famous as a stand-up comedian. His comic talent has found its way into writing. His stories are often about children of the kind we encounter everyday — ordinary, privileged, gentle, horrendous. Without being patronising, but with humour, he writes about the world as the child sees it — a stark place, in black and white.

Even his caricatures make one chuckle with delight for they hold up a mirror to the child’s world, serving the dual purpose of telling a story while delivering a message. He compares the process of writing his manuscripts to that of climbing up a mountain. He perseveres despite the effort because, “I really like the simplicity of children’s literature. It’s a challenge because often you’ve got quite complex ideas you’ve got to put into very simple terms.”

Spoilt brats

This is apparent in his novels. For instance, in Billionaire Boya rich spoilt kid is also very lonely for he lacks a friend; Midnight Gang is about patients in a children’s hospital whose parents never visit them and who are left at the mercy of a harsh and unsympathetic matron; Mr Stink narrates the unlikely friendship between a lonely girl Chloe and the local stinky tramp Mr Stink, the only person who’s ever been nice to her. Gangsta Granny and Grandpa’s Great Escape are about grandparents and help create concern among children for the ailments and idiosyncrasies of old age. Controversy tails successful writers: some years ago, Anthony Horowitz had accused Walliams of creating “dumbed down books” for children.

But the criticism does not seem to be fair. Walliams’s stories are empathetic towards children: he has the knack of capturing the authoritarian and at times unreasonable voice of the adult. Hope exists in the form of a good soul lurking nearby, usually an adult who too has been marginalised by society.

To know what happens to the world’s worst children, read the book. A treat awaits!

David Walliams The World’s Worst Children 2 HarperCollins Children’s Books, London, 2017. Pb. pp. 300 

3 September 2017 

David Walliams “The World’s Worst Children”

61-uuIXk5pL._SX377_BO1,204,203,200_This awful book, and it is awful, especially the spelling, will have a very bad influence on young minds. It will give children lots and lots of ideas about how to be even naughtier than they already are, and some of them are already EXTREMELY naughty. It is an outrage and I for one will be calling this book to be banned. Mr Wallybottom ( or whatever his stupid made-up name is) should be ashamed of himself. 

( Introduction by Raj, a newsagent)

David Walliam’s The World’s Worst Children is hilarious! It is a collection of ten short stories about ten ghastly children. Brats who pick their noses like Peter Picker, Gruby Gertrude who has a gruby room, Miss Petula Perpetual-Motion who cannot sit still, Dribbling Drew who drools far too much or like Brian Wong, who was never ever wrong. But let me allow my six-year-old daughter comment upon it. She was ecstatic upon seeing the book and after reading IMG_20160624_171347a bit shot of a tiny ( and her first book review) to her grandmother via WhatsApp. Here it is:

Do you have the book called the world’s worst children? It’s very funny. If you have it read it. Nani. You will see a girl she fart’s a lot! She carries a trumpet with her but she doesn’t blow it with her mouth. Instead she does it with her bums because she doesn’t like to use her mouth. It’s easy to use her bum.
And smell like potty comes out from her bums.

Sarah is thrilled this book has wacky illustrations such as of kids licking bowls of ice cream. “Just like me!” she squeals in excitement. Here is a snippet of a conversation I had with her:

“This book is for six”

“I am six!” I can read it!

Happy, happy.

Then suddenly sad.

“But when I grow up I want to read it again. Can I?”

And here is an audio clip of Sarah reading the book and cracking up with laughter.

The World’s Worst Children is a truly special book. A fantastic cross born of the literary lineage of Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. The layouts are superb. The zany play of fonts and colour with each page designed meticulously. The full-of-light watercolour illustrations by Tony Ross support the text marvellously. It looks like a mad riot of colours and words but is very technically sophisticated. For the pure joy it creates in a young reader is unimaginable. David Walliams is a stand-up comedian but to get the tenor right for children by using words such as “stupid” easily in the text is marvellously liberating! Sarah gurgling with laughter said, “Mummy, ‘stupid’ is a bad word is it not?” and then lapsed into a fit of giggles. I watched my daughter read the lines slowly and blend the words hesitantly to graduate rapidly to reading at a comfortable pace.

The World’s Worst Children I would recommend heartily for everyone. It can easily work for leisure reading to being adopted by schools as supplementary readers.

David Walliams The World’s Worst Children ( Illustrated by Tony Ross) HarperCollins Children’s Books , London, 2016. Pb. pp.270 Rs 599 

5 July 2016 

 

 

Katherine Applegate, “The One and Only Ivan” and “Crenshaw”

applegateKatherine Applegate’s Newberry award-winning book The One and Only Ivan (2012) is a stunningly beautiful book and a must read for children and adults alike. The New York Times wrote “It was based, loosely, on a true story; it addressed the issue of animal cruelty honestly, but in a manner that children could handle; it was technically original, telling the story from Ivan’s perspective, in short chapters that read like prose poems. But the primary reason “Ivan” has become such a beloved book is Ivan himself. His frank wisdom about life, both human and animal, provokes laughter and thought; his aspirations — to become an artist, and to liberate himself through art — feel universal.” ( 6 Nov 2015 http://nyti.ms/1TH2ehd )

Ivan is a gorilla in captivity. He lives in a mall with a bunch of other retired circus animals including Stella, an elephant and Bob the stray dog who has adopted him. After the humans have left for the night, Ivan and Stella converse with Bob usually napping on Ivan’s large tummy. One day Ivan requests Stella to recount the Jambo story. It is about Jambo a gorilla into whose zoo enclosure falls a human baby. Read on…

****


‘Tell us the Jambo story,” I say. It’s a favourite of mine but I don’t think Bob has ever heard it.

Because she remembers everything, Stella knows many stories. I like colourful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.

I’m not in a position to be picky.

“Once upon a time,” Stella begins, “there was a human boy. He was visiting a gorilla family at a place called a zoo.”

“What’s a zoo?” Bob asks. He’s a street-smart dog, but there’s much he hasn’t seen.

“A good zoo,” Stella says, “is a large domain. A wild cage. A safe place to be. It has room to roam and humans who don’t hurt.” She pauses, considering her words. “A good zoo is how humans make amends.”

Stella moves a bit, groaning softly. “The boy stood on a wall,” she continues, “watching, pointing, but he lost his balance and fell into the wild cage.”

“Humans are clumsy,” I interrupt. “If only they would knuckle walk, they wouldn’t topple so often.”

Stella nods. “A good point, Ivan. In any case, the boy lay in a motionless heap, while the humans gasped and cried. The silverback, whose name was Jambo, examined the boy, as was his duty, while his troop watched from a safe distance.

“Jambo stroked the child gently. He smelled the boy’s pain, and then he stood watch.

“When the boy woke, his humans cried out, ‘Stay still! Don’t move!’ because they were certain – humans are always certain about things – that Jambo would crush the boy’s life from him.

“The boy moaned. The crowd waited, hushed, expecting the worst.

“Jambo led his troop away.

“Men came down on ropes and whisked the child to waiting arms.”

“Was the boy all right?” Bob asks.

“He wasn’t hurt,” Stella says, “although I wouldn’t be surprised if his parents hugged him many times that night, in between their scoldings.”

Bob, who had been chewing his tail, pauses, tilting his head. “Is that a true story?”

“I always  tell the truth,” Stella replies. “Although I sometimes confuse the facts.”

( p.59-61)

***

Unfortunately reality is harsher.

Harambe, infant, courtesy Charles AlexanderOn  28 May 2016, seventeen-year-old Harambe was shot dead in Cincinnati zoo. Here is the account by Charles Alexander (https://www.facebook.com/wildlifeartist?fref=photo&qsefr=1 )

Harambe died today, one day after his 17th birthday. Son of Moja, he was born and raised at the Gladys Porter Zoo here in South Texas– a magnificent western lowland gorilla. Everyone loved him here. Last year, the big guy was sent to Cincinnati Zoo to meet some girls. This afternoon, Harambe was shot dead when a small child crossed a railing, got through a fence, past thick Pyrecantha bushes and a 12″ thick concrete wall– and fell into the gorilla moat. Where were the parents of the child? Looking at their cell phones? I see kids running wild all the time at the Gladys Porter Zoo, at every zoo I visit. Chasing 13266097_10154273745777276_1182632249269177653_npeacocks, yelling at the animals, feeding animals, throwing stuff into exhibits, often totally unsupervised and undisciplined. Adults do the same crap. Ignorant and self-entitled to do what they please, here in this very special place that many endangered species call home, they couldn’t care less about the consequences of their behavior. Now Harambe is dead. Great work people! Animals lose again.

RIP Harambe.

Katherine Applegate has recently published an equally moving book for children Crenshaw. Both books are published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Reality IS stranger than fiction.

Read these two novels. Share them. Live them. Avert such unnecessary tragedies in future.

Katherine Applegate The One and Only Ivan HarperCollins Children’s Books, London, 2012. Pb. Pp.260. 

Katherine Applegate Crenshaw HarperCollins Children’s Books, London, 2015. Pb. Pp.254. 

30 May 2016