Despite this being his ninth book (including two for younger readers) I hadn’t actually read anything by this celebrity writer, comedian, actor, TV judge, cross-channel swimmer etc. etc., so seeing this on the library shelves I thought I’d give it a go. This book won Children’s Book Of The Year at the National Book Awards so comes with a good pedigree. I must admit it wasn’t the best choice of book to read on the day that I had a dental appointment!
It is, as I suspected it might be, a real riot and shows Walliams as the natural successor to Roald Dahl. Alfie lives with and cares for his wheelchair-bound Dad who has lung problems after years spent working down the mines. Twelve year old Alfie has neglected his teeth because of a bad experience with a previous dentist and now they are in a bad way. A new Dentist comes to his school assembly to give a talk and it seems as if something untoward is going on. The Tooth Fairy seems to have been replaced by something leaving nasty surprises under children’s pillows. Alfie is forced into the dentist’s surgery where his encounter with the devilish Miss Root confirms his worst fears. Throw in a tenacious social worker, a less than hygienic sweet shop owner and a girl friend who Alfie insists is just a friend and you have a well-crafted laugh out loud tale. I particularly enjoyed the section when coffee-flavoured Revels play their part in the general mayhem. The hero is likeable and the situations he faces unexpected. There’s pathos amidst the comedy and Walliams has produced a little corker of a children’s book. I had imagined a little less craft and a little more obsession with bodily functions (a disappointing major pre-occupation in popular children’s lit. it seems) but the humour is broader than that. Walliams gets the balance right and the end result is very enjoyable. I actually think that this is up there with the best of Dahl and that Walliams is likely to be revered as an author by children long after he has stopped being a judge on “Britain’s Got Talent.”
And even better news- I didn’t need anything doing at the dentist…………!
Demon Dentist was published in 2013 in the UK by Harper Collins