Think of the most horrible children you have ever met – you know, the high-pitched, super loud screamer, the nosey one who asks highly personal questions, the really rude one or the totally spoilt brat.
You will definitely find some aspects of each of them in David Walliams’ The World’s Worst Children, naughtily illustrated by Tony Ross.
In fact, you might even be introduced to children who are horrible in ways you never even thought of.
I know I was certainly cringing – and quite frequently annoyed – throughout my read.
Walliams gathers 10 terrible children in this short story collection and I must say, he seems to have gleefully unleashed his imagination in coming up with them.
While all of them naturally have attitude problems, a number have problems that are further compounded by questionable body function issues.
The very first story introduces us to Dribbling Drew, who not only loves to nap (Hands up, whoever has kids who just don’t want to get up in the morning! Yes, mum, I see your hand there.) but also drools continuously while he sleeps. Believe me when I say that he drools in epic proportions, as you’ll find out in his tale.
There’s also Peter Picker, the nose-picker who lovingly collects his snot into a giant ball of bogeys, and Windy Mindy, who wickedly delights in her ability to fart on command.
Similar to Peter in the weird collector category is Nigel Nit-Boy, who is obsessed with hair nits. The reason behind this obsession? Well, Nigel figures with his billions of nits, he would be a pretty formidable super-villain!
Meanwhile, parents might be familiar with the less extreme versions of Grubby Gertrude, Sofia Sofa and Petula Perpetual-Motion.
Gertrude is probably the dirtiest person you’ll ever meet in a story (and hopefully never in real life). Her room has so much rubbish that it actually evolves into a new life form!
Sofia and Petula, as you might guess, are total opposites – Sofia is the ultimate couch potato, while Petula just can’t stop moving (or can she?).
Then we have every sibling’s worst enemy, Bertha the Blubberer. Not only does Bertha cry at almost anything – eg the heat, the cold, anything made out of plastic, moustaches, and tadpoles especially – but she also uses her crying to falsely accuse her younger brother of hurting her, and thus gets extra pudding, her absolute favourite thing. She definitely gets her just desserts in the end, though.
Last but certainly not the least annoying are Earnest Ernest and Brian Wong, “who was never ever wrong”.
Ernest is just the type of child who takes the joy out of everything and has never laughed, or even smiled, in his entire life.
And when he finally does, the reasons are simply terrible. Smarty-pants Brian, meanwhile, takes it to the extreme in never wanting to admit that he is wrong.
Now, this is obviously a children’s book, but do parents really want to buy a book about terrible children for their kids?
As Raj says in his introduction to this book: “This AWFUL book, and it is awful, especially the speling (sic), will have a very bad influence on young minds.
“It will give children lots and lots of ideas about how to be even naughtier than they already are, and some of them are already EXTREMELY naughty.”
Those familiar with Walliams’ work will be familiar with recurring character Raj, the news agent whose idea of a sales bargain is “Buy your own bodyweight in mints, get one mint free”.
Raj also presents succinct comments at the end of every story in this book.
So perhaps The World’s Worst Children should be a present best considered by the cool aunt, uncle, godparent or family friend – anyone who doesn’t really have to deal with any fallout from the book.
Because kids will certainly find it hilarious and gross and, possibly, inspiring (in terms of naughtiness).
Don’t forget to pay attention to Ross’ very apt and detailed illustrations, and also, the acknowledgements page that lists out all the naughty things the people behind Walliams and this book have done in their childhood.
The World’s Worst Children
Author: David Walliams
Illustrator: Tony Ross
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, fiction