13 October 2009
Following the success of this spring's initial Horrid Henry invasion (4 books, 16 stories of unrivaled mischief and bad behavior,) the elementary aged yobbo is back in Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter and Horrid Henry's Underpants. Having already established that Horrid Henry is fairly irredeemable, author Francesca Simon and illustrator Tony Ross continue to play up Henry for all his comedic value. His parents continue to despair in the face of his behavior (although they get some sweet, if unintended, revenge in Horrid Henry Eats a Vegetable.) And little brother Perfect Peter is starting to develop as less perfect and more prim; he is not so perfect that he isn't above bickering with Horrid Henry and conniving to get his own way, as he does in Horrid Henry's Car Journey. But what readers want is Horrid Henry getting in and out of scrapes and providing a good laugh, and that is exactly what they get.
The stories fall into two categories: stories where Henry gets away with being just about the worst blighter imaginable, and stories where he gets his come-uppance. Kids will enjoy either variety. For me, the stand-out story from these two books is Horrid Henry's Thank You Letter. Nagged by his mother to write thank you letters for gifts he doesn't even like (as has already been witnessed in the underpants story,) Horrid Henry comes up with the brainstorm of starting a thank-you letter writing business. As has recently been seen in the "Wimpy Kid" books (remember the haunted house?), money making schemes in which the work ethic is less than ethical are doomed to failure. Not only are they doomed, but they are so spectacularly ill-advised that the reader has a hard time deciding what's funnier: watching the machinations as the plan is put into place, or awaiting the outcome. After a brisk uptake in customers, Henry's attempt to devise a suitable template for his "personal" thank you cards leads to:
Thank you/No Thank you for the
present. I really loved it/hated it. In fact, it is the best present/worst present I have ever received. I/ played with it/broke it/ate it/spent it/threw it in the garbage/ right away. Next time just send lots of money.
Best wishes/Worst wishes
You can imagine Henry's surprise and indignation when his unhappy customers are just about ready to tar and feather him after he's mailed out a bunch of those. And unfortunately for Henry, he sent the form letter as thanks for his own gifts, too.
Naughty children in literature, while perhaps a source of dismay for parents, have such obvious appeal for young readers. Like Rotten Ralph before him, who is endured--even adored--by the ever-patient Sara, there is never any threat that Horrid Henry's antics will lead to anything other than more opportunities to act out. And even when he comes up against someone as formidable as he is, such as Moody Margaret or Rabid Rebbecca, the scary sitter, the reader knows that Henry's vanquishing will be short lived and that he will soon be back in top, horrid form.
If you have want a chance to read a bit of Horrid Henry yourself, I have a copy of Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse (just in time for Halloween) to give away. This copy has been provided by Sourcebooks, the publishers of Horrid Henry in the United States. Just leave a comment and send an email to my profile, and you will be entered in the giveaway. The drawing will be held on 21 October 2009. Good luck!