Monday, 25 June 2012
The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams
And it was, without a doubt, the best book I've read to my class all year. David Walliams had them hanging on to every word and begging me to read past home time in order to find out what would happen next. Some even went out in their own time and bought copies of this and other Walliams books; there's almost a Walliams book club going on during silent reading time now! I will meet fierce resistance if I read anything but another Walliams book next.
The Boy in the Dress is all about Dennis, who lives with his Dad and big brother John after his Mum has left the family. They are a very macho family with a strict no-hugging rule (except during football matches), but Dennis is different. When he becomes friends with budding fashion designer Lisa (who is also the prettiest girl in the school), she encourages him to just be himself. Before he knows it, Dennis is posing as French exchange student Denise, but will his disguise last?
As a teacher, there was so much I liked about the book. Walliams doesn't patronise his readers, but instead includes them in a jokey narrative and lets them think for themselves. There is plenty of humour, and enough rude/ slightly edgy jokes to keep them satisfied, but Walliams never goes too far. Quentin Blake's illustrations are of course marvellous. It appealed to everyone in the class, whatever their gender or interests as it's mainly about feeling different, and who hasn't ever felt different?
The cross dressing story is sensitively done too. Walliams wisely steers clear of any sexuality issue and makes Dennis just a typical, football loving boy who happens to like wearing dresses. My children thought it was strange at first (especially the boys) but by the end all of the children in my inner-city class were cheering for Dennis and his right to wear whatever he wanted. When he gets in trouble for wearing a dress, they were vocally outraged and angry on his behalf.
And that's what I loved; because without even knowing it, they had learned that everyone's different and that you don't have to conform with what everyone expects you to be. That boys don't have to love football and girls dresses, that boys and girls aren't too different after all.
Highly recommended for 8+