Tuesday 2 February 2016

Review: Hamish and the Neverpeople by Danny Wallace, illustrated by Jamie Littler

Nobody knows it yet, but the people of Earth are in big, big trouble.

Like - HUGE trouble. Oh, come on, where's your imagination? Double what you're thinking!

And it's all got to do with a shadowy figure, an enormous tower, some sinister monsters, huge clanking and thundering metal oddballs, and people who are just like you… but not like you at all.

Luckily Hamish and the PDF are around to help save the day! Aren't they??

Three was the magic number for Bob Dorough, Blind Melon and De La Soul, and it's also the magic number for these new style Book Zone reviews, as part of my seemingly endless quest for brevity when reviewing. So, here are three reasons why I totally love Hamish and the Neverpeople (and also the first outing for the titular main characters, Hamish and the Worldstoppers):

1. Brilliant characters

I've always felt that one of the main ingredients that has led to the huge success of David Walliams's books is his ability to create brilliant, memorable characters. Take it from me, Danny Wallace also possesses this ability in spades. Hamish is one of those characters that young readers will relate to with ease - he's not particularly special, he's just an ordinary boy who fate has decided has a part in saving the earth. Twice. He misses his father sorely, and knows deep down that there must be more to his disappearance than others might suggest. And he has the best group of friends in the world... ever! The various members of the PDF (Pause Defence Force) each comes with their own specific skill-set and distinct personality, which was funny and entertaining enough in the first book, but add their 'Otherhalves' to the mix and you can turn the entertainment level up to 11! (What's an Otherhalf? You'll have to read the book to find out).

2. It is pee-your-pants funny

Get those incontinence pants ready! The Hamish books are so funny that there are bound to be a few little accidents along the way. A shame really - these books would be perfect for primary school teachers to read to whole classes during story time, but just imagine the mess! Danny Wallace is labelled as a humorist on his wikipedia page, and that is exactly what you get in these books - joyous, uncontrived humour from beginning to end, with just the right level of silliness. He is also a master of the use of the so-called 'fourth wall' as a device for making his stories even funnier and he uses this to grab the reader from the off, and makes the reading a far more immersive experience for young readers.

3. Jamie Littler's illustrations

It is truly wonderful when an illustrator's artwork complements the written aspect of a story so perfectly. The most obvious recent example that springs to my mind is Sarah McIntyre's collaboration with Philip Reeve, and Jamie Littler's illustrations for the Hamish books firmly places him on this relatively exclusive list. 

The covers for the two books are among my very favourite for books of this type published in recent years, and publishers Simon and Schuster even included a large, glossy, full colour press release with the book they sent me - if I can just remember in which safe place I filed the Worldstoppers press release I intend to get the two framed together as they will look great on the wall. The illustrations throughout the story are almost as fabulous as the cover, and I only say almost because they are in black and white. Wouldn't it be great if publishers could afford to add colour illustrations throughout their middle grade books? Seriously though, if I won the lottery I would certainly be knocking on Mr Littler's door, begging to buy some of his Hamish illustrations, or prints of them at the very least. 

Hamish and the Neverpeople is due to be published in the UK on 11th February, but if you or your child haven't already read Hamish and the Worldstoppers I would suggest you get yourself down to your nearest book store and buy a copy immediately. It really is worth you going out of your way for!


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