I recently used a short break in Sydney to read the last of David Walliams' books that I hadn't read previously. This of course puts him (and me) in a rather enviable position- I've now read all of David Walliams' published books for children- well the novel length ones, I do have a few picture books to go still and there will be a new book again in September 2015, but this time I'm ready for it.
Demon Dentist was published in 2013, around the time that I started reading his work. It's certainly no wonder that he is phenomenally successful and wildly popular with kids- his books are fun, and a bit naughty and clever, and I think it is right that he is the most likely successor to Roald Dahl that we have writing today.
Poor 12 year old Alfie Griffith has terrible teeth.
Alfie hated going to the dentist. As a result the boy's teeth were almost all yellow. The ones that weren't yellow were brown. They bore the stains of all the goodies that children love, but dentists hate. Sweets, fizzy drinks, chocolate. The teeth that were neither yellow nor brown simply weren't there any more. They had fallen out. One had bitten into a toffee and stayed there. Assorted fruit-flavoured chews had claimed others.
Alfie lives with his father who is very unwell as a result of his work as a coal miner.
A great big bear of a man, he had loved working down the pit and providing for his beloved son. However, all those years he spend down the mine took a terrible toll on his lungs.
Alfie's Dad is confined to a wheelchair, and can no longer work. Alfie acts as a carer for his father, and they get by on very little money. So when a do-gooder social worker turns up intent on getting Alfie to the dentist and on eating every chocolate biscuit in the house there was always going to be trouble.
Demon Dentist is probably the most scary of David Walliams' books. So scary it even comes with a warning.
It is also perhaps his most plot driven book- it gets pretty exciting towards the end. All of David Walliams books have a warm heart, but are never preachy. Here he shows us that you can find happiness after sadness, and seamlessly incorporates multiracial characters to represent a modern Britain/world.
Demon Dentist plays on the widespread fear of dentists- who doesn't hate going to the dentist? Kids growing up now do fare much better, but the concept of pain free dentistry certainly didn't exist when I was a kid, and I think for most adults a trip to the dentist is at least a drudge, if not downright terrifying. Children of course like to eat lollies and other sugary things that are not good for their teeth, and tooth decay is still a very modern problem. Of course it is all dealt with in traditional Walliams style with fart jokes and teachers underwear on display.
"But tooth fairies aren't real..." protested the boy.
The witch smiled. "Oh yes, they are. Annoying little do-gooders flapping all over the place."
Check out my David Walliams link to read my other reviews and ponderings. Billionaire Boy is still my favourite.