Walliams’ latest novel tackles an issue that some of his readers may have already had to deal with: ageing relatives. It also reminds us of the important bond between a child and their grandparents, and not to underestimate somebody just because of their age!
Jack loves spending time with his Grandpa, who always tells him the best stories about his adventures flying a Spitfire plane as an RAF pilot during WWII. But as he gets older, Grandpa starts to become more and more forgetful – he wears his slippers to the supermarket and sometimes even forgets Jack’s name. Thankfully, Jack steps in to help save the day and Grandpa proves that he’s still got what it takes to be a hero – “Up, up and away!”
Lovable newsagent and fan-favourite Raj appears in (nearly) all of the David Walliams novels. Described as being “like the funny uncle you always wished you had” – but even better, he sells sweets – Raj is neither teacher nor parent, so he can give the young characters his honest advice along with a dubious bargain or two, such as discounts on half-eaten sweets.
Readers were disappointed that Raj didn’t make an appearance in last year’s Awful Auntie, because it was set in the “olden days.” The author acknowledged this in true nonsensical fashion by ending the book with a letter of complaint from Raj, who was so furious not to be included that he crushed a piece of fudge “with his bare hands.” Thankfully, following the online petition #bringbackraj he reappears in Walliams’ latest novel, Grandpa’s Great Escape, and the author has event hinted that the character could one day get his own book: “Maybe if I can think of a story,” he told the Radio Times.
“To boo, or not to boo? That is the question” – this is how Walliams introduces his newest picture book character, a little polar bear cub who enjoys giving the other arctic animals a fright. Younger children will identify with the cub as he defiantly ignores his mother’s cries of “How would you like it if someone went boo to you?” and has to learn some important lessons about doing as you’re told. Brought beautifully to life by the talented illustrator Tony Ross, the cheeky cub in the little green scarf is a character who is sure to make children giggle and stay in their hearts for years to come.
*Parents: bonus point if you manage to make your little ones jump while reading this!*
As you may have guessed from the book’s title, the larger-than-life Aunt Alberta really is quite awful. With a “permanent snarl” and a voice “deep and rich, like a boozy cake,” she is one of Walliams’ most sinister and violent villains and will do anything she can to get hold of the deeds to Saxby Hall.
Awful as she is, it’s difficult not to have a slight fondness for such a sinister character who always skips straight to dessert and blew the family treasure on a most “dangerous obsession”: tiddlywinks. A special mention also needs to go to Wagner, her Great Bavarian Mountain Owl sidekick – who apparently makes a mean apple strudel. Oh, but he may also try to kill you.
Dennis – aka “the boy in the dress” – is a literary mascot for anyone who has ever felt a bit different. Dennis isn’t like your average 12-year-old – at least, he doesn’t feel that way when he looks in the mirror or realises that his thoughts are “full of colour and poetry.” After their mum leaves home, Dennis and his brother are raised by their lorry-driver dad, who has questionable values about gender roles and doesn’t think boys should hug, talk about their feelings or read Vogue. And they certainly shouldn’t wear dresses. But when Lisa James, the most beautiful girl in the school, tells Dennis, “you can be whoever you want to be!” he becomes braver than any tough guy in the playground by staying true to himself, regardless of what other people think.
A touching, lovable character who can even teach parents a thing or two about letting their children choose their own path in life.
Arguably one of Walliams’ most disgusting characters, Burt from Ratburger is “as unsavoury as the burgers he served.” With a giant belly, dandruff the size of Rice Krispies and jeans encrusted with grease, Walliams paints a repulsively detailed description of Burt that conjures up images of those other revolting literary characters: Roald Dahl’s The Twits.
Representing the darker, more menacing side of Walliams’ writing, Burt can be a little frightening for younger readers – particularly those with a sensitive disposition! He wants to get hold of little Zoe’s talented pet rat Armitage and turn him into a – you guessed it – burger; but can she stop him before it’s too late?
Ben thinks his Granny is boring – “I hate spending time with her” he protests to his parents, “The TV doesn’t work, all she wants to do is play Scrabble, and she stinks of cabbage.” But little does Ben know that his grandma has been an international jewel thief her entire life, and now needs his help to steal the crown jewels. From cabbage-induced flatulence to zooming down the motorway in her mobility scooter, only one thing is for certain with Ben’s granny: expect the unexpected.
Walliams has delighted audiences with this comical character who is very much a ‘textbook Granny’ – complete with burgundy slippers and a tissue up her sleeve – but who also has a shocking secret life. Gangsta Granny was an instant hit and has been re-written in 41 languages, with her antics entertaining readers all over the world and reminding us to cherish our grandparents while they are still around.
A ghost may seem an unlikely friend, but when Lady Stella Saxby needs to do something about her awful Aunt Alberta, it’s the mischievous Soot – the ghost of a young boy who died when someone lit a fire beneath the chimney – who is right by her side helping in her quest to overthrow her aunt and reclaim Saxby Hall. Getting their tongues around Soot’s cockney rhyming slang can be a bit of a challenge for young readers, but that’s also part of what makes him such a memorable character. He’s instantly likeable when he first meets Stella and isn’t intimidated by her wealth, calling her “Lady Posho” – in fact, he’s more concerned about her saying he’s short! Most importantly though, Soot represents a valuable lesson about the power of friendship (and not going up chimneys)!
“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…”
Mr Stink is a filthy yet loveable tramp who resides on a bench in the local park, with his dog Duchess. As little Chloe’s family begins to unravel and the town turns against Mr Stink, she takes pity on him and Duchess and hides them in her garden shed. Toilet humour aside, the relationship between Mr Stink and Chloe teaches us about overcoming prejudices and not judging a book by its cover – guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye!
Joe Spud is “ridiculously, preposterously rich” and has everything that a 12-year-old could ever want; apart from a friend. As the son of the man who invented ‘Bumfresh’ toilet roll, Joe Spud is incredibly spoilt and gets £100,000 a week in pocket money – a fact alone that’s enough to make child readers hate him.
But Joe isn’t a one-dimensional character. After getting bullied at his wealthy school and called names such as “The Bum-Wipe Heir, Master Plop-Paper […] And that’s just the teachers” Joe asks to go to a comprehensive school so that he can hide his wealth and fit in with everyone else. This doesn’t last long when his dad reveals their identity by showing up at school in the ‘Bum Air’ helicopter, and Joe upsets his best friend Bob by paying the bullies to leave him alone. We soon realise it’s not Joe’s fault that he’s the son of a “bog-roll billionaire,” and that his intentions are actually good. He also teaches us that money isn’t everything.
Oh, and if readers should be jealous of anything, it’s the fact that Joe gets to ride in the Rajmobile (which Raj bought off eBay for £3.50)!