Monday 25 June 2012

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

I always thought David Walliams was just some averagely funny comedian from the TV who had used his celebrity to get mediocre books published (mentioning no names, Katie Price!).  But I needed something new to read to my class of ten year olds, so another teacher recommended The Boy in the Dress.

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+


  1. Hi Sam you have won a copy of Wonder Girls please check your emails and let me know your address, Cheers, Lindsay

    1. I saw it and have replied :)
      I'm so excited, I never win things!

    2. I've passed all the winners' details on to the publisher today so hopefully you'll receive the book fairly soon. It will be great to see what you think of it as and when you read it. I'm glad you liked this book and that it was a success in your class, I actually was in London when he was launching it at Selfridges and met him and Quentin Blake. I remember that David Walliams offered me a malteser, random fact.

  2. I'm so glad your class enjoyed this book.
    I was trying to remember where I had heard the name Quentin Blake before. I just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with David and now we are on to Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. He is a wonderful illustrator!

    1. You're right, Quentin Blake illustrates the Roald Dahl books wonderfully. He also has a few picture books he has written and illustrated himself that are good too - Mister Magnolia is worth checking out.

  3. We have a copy of this (along with Mr Stink & Billionaire Boy) on our bookshelf at home. It's actually how I got my (26 year old!) hubby back into reading, despite not having read it myself, and he loves Walliams. We've been waiting what seems like forever for his new one to come out in paperback!!

    Also, unrelated but I'm excited to see what you think of The Clan of the Cave Bear - I need to read it this year and I've been looking for some motivation!!

  4. I've read Mr Stink to my son and we both enjoyed it. The Boy in the Dress sounds great, I'll look out for it.