I'm so glad that I picked up Billionaire Boy one day recently on a whim. Sometimes you need a little morsel to read between other books. Something light, cheery and funny. I picked up Billionaire Boy hoping it would be all those things. It certainly was. And more, much more.
I read David Walliams' first book, The Boy in the Dress, a few months ago, and quite liked it. Even though each of Walliams' six books are a separate story, I'm OCD enough that I was planning on reading them in sequence, to see his progression as a writer. But I didn't have access to his second book, Mr Stink, today. Billionaire Boy is his third book. And I absolutely loved it, despite reading it out of sequence.
There are many similar elements to The Boy in the Dress actually. More toilet paper, more mean teachers with silly names, more loneliness, more bullies and schoolyard trials. Joe Spud is a 12 year old boy whose father has made his fortune in double sided toilet paper, which of course leads the way to much toilet paper and bum humour. Some of it is actually pretty funny.
But Joe is a lonely boy. He's quite fat and rather miserable at St Cuthbert's School for Boys, the most expensive school in England. He is teased and taunted because of his father's new money.
Most of the boys at Joe's school were Princes, or at least Dukes or Earls. Their families had made their fortunes from owning lots of land. That made them 'old money'. Joe had come to learn that money was only worth having if it was old. New money from selling loo rolls didn't count.
There are marvellous lists scattered throughout Billionaire Boy. Joe's school timetable at St Cuthbert's, which runs over several pages, has some marvellous jokes for the adults.
Competition to see who is best friends with Prince Harry
History of wearing corduroy
A lecture on how to talk loudly in restaurants
There are some very Dahl-esque swear words (Walliams has been proclaimed as the successor to Dahl). Perhaps some of the most comical moments come from Mrs Trafe, the school lunch lady, and her rather abominable menu. Badger and onion pie, dandruff risotto, or deep fried Blu-tack for the vegetarians. Wonderful gross humour for the prepubescent set. Perhaps David Walliams supports Jamie Oliver's work on school lunches? Perhaps it's just a great source of humour and grossness?
Billionaire Boy is a marvellous book. Funny. Gross. But with an important heart. David Walliams is teaching us that money can't buy us love, or indeed happiness. I think that Walliams doesn't quite have some of the malevolence of Dahl, but he certainly is a worthy successor. Quentin Blake illustrated David Walliams first two books, Tony Ross takes up the job with Billionaire Boy. The illustrations are marvellous, and the graphs of purple bottoms are outstanding. I'll be reading more David Walliams, soon.
April 2019 update: I've just listened to the audiobook of Billionaire Boy as preparation for seeing the stage show shortly. I was a bit anxious about revisiting this, still my favourite Walliams book. Would I still love it? Yep. I sure did. David Walliams does the narration and makes use of all his wonderful voices and characters.
I had forgotten a lot of the later plot action, but remembered the first third of the book quite well. I laughed out loud many times.