Many reviewers have compared comedian-cum-author David Walliams’ books to Roald Dahl’s, but could this be because the first two – The Boy in the Dress and Mr Stink – were illustrated by Quentin Blake, Dahl’s long-standing collaborator? Walliams isn’t shy about his love for Dahl, claiming his work is “perfect”. And while Walliams’ books certainly share Dahl’s balance of comedy and heart-wrenching moments, the former’s books are very much set in the 21st century, with mentions of ‘Gangsta Granny’ and an obsession with the programme ‘Strictly Stars Dancing’. Although it’s these references that make the books so relatable and funny for kids today, some say these references may risk dating the story, while others claim it will only add to the nostalgic feel in a few decades’ time.
Dahl’s books, on the other hand, have certainly survived the tests of time. They still have the power to make children squeal with delight (and sometimes terror!), capturing their imaginations with classic tales such as Matilda and James and the Giant Peach. He is now considered one of the most beloved storytellers and his books remain as popular as ever.
J K Rowling, world-famous for writing the Harry Potter books, has stated several times that she spent a lot of her childhood reading C. S. Lewis, whose seven-book series ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ also involves a good dose of magic and wizardry. The theme of good vs evil is prevalent in both series, and both authors write how good must overcome evil in order to preserve tranquility. Their use of heroes and fantasy captivate and enhance the imaginations of those both young and old around the world, and have lent themselves perfectly to become successful fantasy blockbusters.
Both series are based around the theme of magic, but it is portrayed in different ways. In the Harry Potter books, for example, magic is a skill that children can learn. In the Chronicles, however, it is portrayed that children are not meant to practise magic and that it is not designed for humans. Both series contain violence, but nothing in Harry Potter can beat the most terrifying scene of the Chronicles series – the sacrifice of Aslan.
The desire to be special and have secret adventures that adults don’t know about is something that most children can identify with, and that is captured perfectly in both series of books. Both the fantasy world of Narnia and the wizarding world in Harry Potter exist alongside the real world, with characters able to integrate into the two.
When comparing American Dr Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel) with UK-born Julia Donaldson it is quite apparent that the two share a lot of similarities; namely their frequent use of rhythmic meter throughout their prose. But it’s not only rhyming style that the two authors share; their inventive use of imaginary characters and words make their tales the bedtime-story-of-choice for many children around the world.
It has to be said that it is, in part, the excellent illustrations included in both authors’ books that have contributed to their success – essentially, they have become brands in their own right. While Julia Donaldson uses illustrator Axel Scheffler for many of her books, incredibly, Dr Seuss is a cartoonist himself, and designed all the artwork to go alongside his charmingly silly words.Is The Gruffalo the new Grinch? We think both Dr Seuss’ and Julia Donaldson’s masterpieces will be the highlights of many a small child’s bookshelf for years to come.
These two characters – Paddington Bear and Horrid Henry – have only one thing in common: their endless capacity for getting into trouble. Other than that (which is the main focus of every story), they are polar opposites. Paddington Bear is a kind, thoughtful and polite bear who almost always addresses people by “Mr”, “Mrs” or “Miss”. Although he often finds himself in a spot of bother he is always “trying so hard to get things right”. Horrid Henry, however, certainly lives up to his name. He is selfish, rude and disrespectful. He often attempts to solve a problem he is faced with, but this usually involves endangering other people in the process.
Whilst Paddington is an endearing character who’s adventures children can follow with the knowledge that he’ll get it right in the end, Henry appeals to the more morally relaxed society of today and provides a relatable character whom can’t be perfect like his brother Peter and reassures us that not everyone is the same. Both books suggest that good and bad isn’t black and white and that sometimes a good person makes mistakes.
Henry is depicted as a scruffy schoolboy in both the book illustrations and the subsequent animated series for CITV. On the other hand, Paddington’s iconic and endearing look – with his blue duffle coat and red hat – was first seen in 1958 and is still instantly recognisable – a testament to the skills of both Michael Bond and his illustrator Peggy Fortnum. It doesn’t feel like it, but the first Horrid Henry book was published 20 years ago and, 24 titles later, it too is still as popular as ever today.
Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson have both achieved notoriety through their many bestselling books and series, with many of their creations making it onto the TV screen. The sheer number of characters and stories they have written has resulted in a vast number of themes emerging in their works, although both writers clearly have a profound connection with, and a fondness for, childhood, which influences their styles of writing and themes.
One of the major themes for both writers is the desire to escape reality through fantasy. Jacqueline does this more overtly than Enid, with characters that are often daydreamers or compulsive liars whom indulge in over-the-top fantasies about what their lives should be, such as Tracy Beaker and Mandy White in Bad Girls. Jacqueline often creates characters that are dealing with social issues such as foster care or divorce and so the fantasy worlds provide a means of identifying with child readers that may be going through the same thing. On the other hand, Enid’s books were written when many children were dealing with the social issues of post-war times but when these issues were not as freely discussed as now. Characters such a Jo, Bessie and Fanny in The Faraway Tree series and The Famous Five often enter adventurous settings or magical worlds that allow the reader to escape from the hardship of their lives, rather than providing a character to identify with whom also wants to escape their reality.
The worlds that Jacqueline and Enid create give power to the children rather than adults, and there’s a clear sense of mistrust towards adults and authority figures that demonstrate that the books are designed to give children what they want, rather than what adults want children to want. Bravery and loyalty are commonly rewarded within books by both authors, and the stories provide a means for child readers to figure out what is important to them away from intrusive adult input.
Even though these authors’ books were published 25 years apart, their award-winning titles both strike a chord in similar ways. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are both comedies written in a personal diary style, giving the reader an insight into the life, struggles and worries of a teenage boy. It turns out that, despite the difference in the age of the books, they both worry about the same things- fitting in, being cool, bullies, growing up and dealing with the difficulties of family life.
The leading protagonists Adrian Mole and Greg Heffley’s perspectives on life and the structure of the diary entries, makes the two books instantly readable, with most young readers finding they can relate in part to how the main characters are feeling. Both books have been said to make children previously “allergic” to reading, read. Both books became best sellers, with millions of copies sold around the world. That said, Diary of a Wimpy Kid was originally going to be pitched towards adults and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ has a very political undertow throughout.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a series that continues to grow to this day and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ has many sequels as enjoyable as the original. It’s no wonder that both books have been picked up and adapted for the big screen.
Do these books have more similarities than differences? Are there any books from your childhood that your little one adores too? Let us know about them in the comments box below.