One of my guilty pleasures in life will always be Children’s Literature. As a youngster growing up I spent a lot of time reading Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson and of course the AMAZING Harry Potter books. I loved being transported away from my ‘normal’ life into something magical.
My brain feels slightly frazzled due to being deep within exam season and planning schemes of work for the next academic year, so I thought I would treat myself to this beauty from David Walliams. There will always be comments and links made between Dahl and Walliams, but I’m not really interested. Both are amazing children’s writers spanning years. Surely what’s important here is the children’s lives they’ve influenced and delighted?
The thing I love and respect most about DW is the fact that he has encouraged a vast amount of young people to start reading. According to the newspapers he is becoming the fastest growing children’s writer. Good for him.
This story is witty and full of heart. The plot evolves around Stella Saxby, whose parents, Lord and Lady Saxby, have sadly died in a tragic car accident. Stella has a bad feeling about this, and more importantly, about her Aunt Alberta. Her aunt makes a plan to trick Stella out of her inheritance – the beautiful Saxby Hall.
Aunt Alberta has a pet owl, Wagner, who at first is terrifying! The scene where Alberta and Wagner are in bed together in matching pjs did make me chuckle. The most magical character for me is Soot, the ghostly chimney sweep. His relationship with Stella is really moving. I felt quite emotional at the end when the question of age and belief was being explored. “Ya wanted nuffink more than to be older, but bein’ a child is such a special fing. When yer a child, ya can see all the magic in the world.” The play with light and darkness is subtle and effectively done.
Finally, there is Gibbon, the elderly butler who is the funniest of the characters. He is very eccentiric and Walliams provides him with some quick witted one liners or actions throughout the novel, which breaks up the tension created by the Aunt’s evil plot. He serves up slippers believing they are buttered crumpets, shaking hands with a pot plant and talking through a lampshade as if it was a telephone.
Alberta is the epitome of the ‘evil, adult character’. She lacks all sympathy, she’s killed and tortured people and loves vicious owls. She even fought in WW2 for the Germans because she preferred their uniforms. However all is resolved for a fairytale children’s book ending.
The use of language – the wit, the puns, the lists with a twist – are really well thought out and written. What is special about this is how Walliams takes what we know and love and mixes it up for make it modern and refreshing. For example Aunt Alberta’s twists on fairy tales. ‘The Frog Prince. The princess kisses the frog and contracts a waterbourne disease that makes her bottom explode.’
I laughed my head off, fell in love with Soot and championed Stella to beat her awful aunt. One final thought… Where was Raj?
What a brilliant read. Good really does conquer evil.