Author: David Walliams and Quentin Blake
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Source: Gift from Christmas
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Dennis lives in a boring house in a boring street in a boring town. But he’s about to find out that when you open your mind, life becomes anything but boring! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and once you meet Dennis, he’ll live with you forever… (Source: Goodreads)
Dennis is a pretty ordinary kid. He lives with his dad and brother, John, in an ordinary house, with an ordinary car, and like any ordinary boy Dennis likes football. What makes Dennis so extraordinary is that he also likes women’s clothes. Dennis loves to look at women’s clothes, talk about them, and best of all wear them. Dennis learns to accept himself for who he is, even when other people don’t like it.
I really enjoyed this book. It definitely made me think back on books by Roald Dahl which were so important to me as a child. There are a couple of reasons for this, most obviously because Quentin Blake was the illustrator for Roald Dahl’s books, but also because the humor and lessons were pretty similar, just updated for the current generation. I found the book fun, humourous, and overall enjoyable. The story was sweet, fairly complex, with some really serious content mixed with light humour. The characters were also interesting, fairly complex, and really sweet to read about.
The story centers around Dennis’s love for wearing dresses, but also deals pretty heavily with the Dennis’s homelife. His mother left them, his father won’t talk about it, his brother’s angry, and Dennis is confused and sad and he misses his mother. This is a pretty big reason for why he wants to wear dresses, to remind him of his mother. It’s also why he becomes friends with Lisa, who becomes his love interest, but also a mother figure to him. I think that looking at the effect of his family life on his interests and his own view of himself was awesome. It’s great that Walliams included this. I did find it a little troubling that he just suddenly wants to dress as a woman, and that it really is mostly a reflection of his desire to be with his mother. I’m not saying that its an incorrect assumption, but it felt really simplified. Again, it is a kids book so it makes sense to be simple, but it still could use some work.
I loved the characters and the way they developed. I think Walliams touched on some pretty important things. First Dennis’s desire to dress as a woman goes largely accepted by his community, which is great. I think it’s a little optimistic, but suits the book. I loved the way Lisa embraced Dennis, though I was little uncomfortable with his view of her as a mother figure. I think that the development with his brother and father was really great, that they learn to accept him. I liked that Dennis wasn’t just a boy who liked to wear dresses, he was also a boy who loved football, and had these desires that were unrelated to the dresses. This created a more complex character and world in the story.
I think that it was also good that Dennis isn’t gay and crossdressing. I have found that their aren’t enough books which address the fact that dressing outside of the designated gender norm does not necessarily mean gay. I think it’s great that Walliams was able to address this and add this new level to the discussion in books aimed at tweens/teens. I think Walliams also did a decent job of discussing race. He never really makes a big deal of Darvesh’s race other than to point out that Dennis, like Darvesh who is Sikh and wears a patka, shouldn’t feel out of place for what makes his different but should celebrate his differences, and that other people should accept these differences as well, because there’s nothing wrong with being different. I think it was admirably done, and worked to better represent the population of England rather than to completely whitewash the book.
I enjoyed the humour of the book for the most part. It was a good mix of children’s jokes and adult jokes. I think it mixed well with the story and the illustrations. The illustrations were really great for me because they took me back to reading Roald Dahl books as a kid. That was really excellent.
I enjoyed this book a lot and recommend it. I also think I would look into reading more book by Walliams in the future.
Have you read The Boy in the Dress? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Check out David Walliams at his website and Twitter.
Check out Quentin Blake at his website.
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