Friday, 19 April 2013

When fashion is the f-word

I live in the house of testosterone. I have two very boysy boys, a super-sporty husband, even our guinea pigs are male. That's not to say I don't like it. I've often thought that one of the advantages of having children of the opposite gender to my own, is the opportunity to experience vicariously life as a young boy. Of course, there's a lot of chat about food, football and farting and most of the time I'm fine with that. But I do sometimes crave a little more talk about female things; fashion is pretty much the f-word in our house.

So imagine my delight when I came across David Walliams' The boy in the dress at my local library - and my kids wanted to read it. Of course, it helped that they'd just read Walliams' Billionaire Boy - a story about a lad whose family makes a stash off the butt of a product called Bumfresh.

The blurb for The boy in the dress says the story: "is about a boy named Dennis. He lives in a boring house in a boring street in a boring town, and he doesn't have much to look forward to."

In truth, we found Dennis anything but boring. He's an ace football player, has a great sense of humour  - and misses his mum. When she walked out on the family Dennis's dad burned all the photographs of her. Dennis manages to rescue a solitary photo from the flames:
"One solitary photograph escaped the flames, dancing up into the air from the heat of the fire, before floating through the smoke and onto the hedge. As dusk fell, Dennis snuck out and retrieved the photo. It was charred and blackened around the edges and at first his heart sank, but when he turned it to the light he saw that the image was as bright and clear as ever.
"It showed a joyful scene: a younger John and Dennis with Mum at the beach, Mum wearing a lovely yellow dress with flowers on it. Dennis loved that dress; it was full of colour and life, and soft to the touch. When Mum put it on it meant that summer had arrived."
I wouldn't dream of spoiling the story for you, but I loved this book. It's sad, funny and heart-warming - but written with the lightest of touches. When I realised David Walliams is best-known for his work on the multi-award winning TV show Little Brittain, I was surprised. Don't let it put you off. This is a smart, sensitive book that made me, and my boys, laugh out loud. Quentin Blake's illustrations are the icing on the cake.

Whether you live in Testosterone Towers or on Oestrogen St, this is a great book to read with primary-school-age kids. I'd love to hear what you think.


  1. I haven't read this one, though I think there's a copy in the house somewhere, but I have read Mr Stink. I was determined not to like it, because I assumed it was just another celebrity playing at being a children's writer and making money they don't need while better and more deserving writers get ignored, and for the first 30 pages I was pretty sniffy, but then I had to admit Walliams is a very good author. The bastard.

    1. I know exactly what you mean but Walliams definitely bucks the trend. We're currently reading Gangsta Granny and Mr Stink is next on our list. What do you like to read with your kids?

  2. Ooh. I have a secondhand copy of this book somewhere. I'd better go and hunt it down and add it to my pile of books to read!

  3. Good idea! We're looking forward to Walliams' new one - Demon Dentist, but I don't think it will be out in Australia for a while.

    Happy reading...