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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Review: The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams
Illustrated by Quentin Blake

This book is told from an outside narrator. This narrator tells Dennis' story, but he often talks directly to the reader. The story starts out with a description of Dennis' family. He lives with his dad and his brother, John in London, England. His mom left them a few years before and the boys are not allowed to talk about her anymore. Emotions are nonexistent in their family. The only time they hug is when their third-division soccer team scores a goal, which is not very often. The first chapter ends with,
So why was Dennis so different, I hear you ask? After all, this boy lived in an ordinary house, on an ordinary street, in an ordinary town.
Well, I'm not going to tell you why yet, but the clue might be in the title of this book... (p. 19).
The coolest, most beautiful girl in Dennis and John's school takes a liking to Dennis after she finds out he reads Vogue. She makes him a dress and dresses him up as her French exchange student, Denise, and he goes along with it. When he accidentally loses his wig and everyone finds out Denise is really Dennis, he gets expelled. He eventually gets reinstated at the school when he finds out a secret about the headmaster.

This book is one of the 2011 Stonewall Book Awards recipients. The award is sponsored by the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table for books with exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

A Sikh boy wearing a patka.
I thought this was an interesting book, not like anything I had read before. When Dennis is trying to figure out what he is feeling about reading Vogue and enjoying wearing dresses, he talks to his friend Darvesh, who is a Sikh and wears a patka. He says that even though he is different from everyone else in the school, he is okay with it because,
it would be boring if we were all the same wouldn't it?
It certainly would. Dennis smiled. (p. 65)
After Dennis gets expelled for wearing a dress to school, his friend Darvesh comes to his house to talk to him. He says,
It doesn't bother me you know. You're still Dennis, my mate, with or without the dress. (p. 179)
I think this book had a great message of being true to yourself and just doing what makes you happy.

In the "Thanks yous:" in the back of the book, the author, David Walliams, says "and my sister Julie for dressing me up in the first place." So maybe this book is actually about his own experiences as a child.

Blake's illustrations in The Boy in the Dress
Blake's illustrations of the Oompa Loompas.
One of the first things I noticed when I opened the book were the illustrations in the front matter. This book is illustrated by Quentin Blake, the illustrator of Roald Dahl's many books. And the drawings are very similar. Look at the two illustrations here. The one on the left is this book, by David Walliams, and the one on the right is Roald Dahl's, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. At Blake's website, you can see other books that he has illustrated. He has actually written and illustrated a number of his own books, which I was unaware of. There is a page about how he creates his drawings which is also very neat to read about! He has also included a video of his creations.

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