Recommended for ages 8-12
Weird things are happening in Alfie’s town, and they seem to have started when the freaky new dentist, Ms. Root – who insists everyone call her “Mummy” – shows up. Kids are getting terrible things under their pillow – eyeballs, bugs, slugs, and more! – instead of a shiny coin from the tooth fairy. Alfie’s own teeth need some serious dental work, but there’s no way he’s going to be Mummy’s next victim – but his social worker, Winnie, has other ideas. Can Alfie and his friend Gabz figure out Ms. Root’s secrets? Or will they find themselves in the demon dentist’s chair?
I’ve been a fan of David Walliams since the decidedly un-child-friendly (but HILARIOUS) show Little Britain, where he and comedian Matt Lucas created insanely funny sketches and characters. He’s become a prolific children’s author in the UK, but I’ve never had the chance until now to read any of his work. Demon Dentist, I believe, is his first US release, and I am thrilled – I already ordered a copy for my library.
Walliams’ work has a distinct Roald Dahl influence: Alfie’s poor surroundings and sickly father in particular remind me of Charlie Bucket’s family; but like Charlie, he doesn’t let it get to him. He takes care of his dad; it’s Alfie and his dad against the world. The two have more than a deep love for one another; they’re devoted to each other. Alfie’s dad spins tales of imagination that take them both on journeys and adventures far and wide, and although, as Alfie gets older, he’d rather be playing video games, he continues to go on these journeys with his dad because he loves him and knows what it means to his father. Winnie, the social worker tasked with checking in on Alfie and his dad, is brash, loud, and funny, with a heart of gold and the best of intentions. Doctor Root is a brilliant, 3-D villain that leaps off the page and hides under your bed.
To add to the Dahl-esque feel, we have Quentin Blake’s wonderful black and white illustrations. I love his artwork for so many reasons, not the least being the memories of reading Mr. Dahl’s books as a kid, curled up in my little reading corner. Blake’s illustrations are wickedly funny here, giving more life to Walliams’ story.
There are larger than life personalities in here, laugh out loud humor, made-up words galore (clearly asterisked for you!), and a bittersweet, gorgeous story about family that will leave you cheering as you wipe a tear away from your eye. My next move: download the rest of Walliams’ novels for my Nook.