This is the first time I’m choosing to write about an issue that actually bothers me. Usually I post about a really great book I’ve just finished or a sneaky little writing tip I’ve come across, but this, I feel, is an issue worthy of complaining about. In fact, it really upset me when I saw it, a proper ‘childhood meltdown’, if you know what I mean.
The other day I was browsing the bestselling books section of my local Sainsburys and I couldn’t help but noticing a new series of front covers for Roald Dahl’s children’ books. However, upon closer inspection I realised they weren’t the works of Roald Dahl at all, but those of David Walliams, who we all know is a great admirer of Roald Dahl, as are many of us. I for one absolutely adore his tales.
Most of us will have either grown up reading Roald Dahl or perhaps have read them to our little ones. His stories, and the drawings of his illustrator, Quentin Blake, are iconic. For me, he’s a huge part of my childhood. The first book I was ever read at school (you know the type, when the teacher reads for ten minutes at the end of every school day so that it takes you a whole year to finish a book) was The Twits. At the end of the day, all sitting on the cross-legged on the carpet in silence, we would listen to his marvellous words and when the bell rang we would actually moan, not wanting to go home, but wanting to continue with the story. I don’t remember another book that ever caused such a reaction in class. A few years later I remember tuning in to Blue Peter when one of the presenters was visiting the writing shed at the bottom of Roald Dahl’s garden. He or she (I can’t remember who it was now) explained how he only ever wrote in pencil, one of those yellow ones with the eraser on the tip and always had six spares sharpened at the ready. He also was very particular about his paper choices, he used only American yellow legal pads that were sent to him from New York. This writerly process was all fascinating to me. Then later, at Secondary School, our class read Boy and learnt all about his childhood at that fateful school, where he and his friends were caned for putting a dead mouse in one of Mrs Pratchett’s gobstopper jars. This I suppose, contrary to my Never Have I Ever post, was my first biography. The idea of one’s life being made so exciting hooked me. Needless to say, I’m an avid Roald Dahl fan.
As you can see David Walliams has used Quentin Blake as his illustrator, and this is fundamentally my issue. By doing this, using the same bold colours, the same style of drawings and even similar titles, he’s basically impersonating the original books. I can’t comment on the content because I flatly refuse to read one. I dislike them even before I’ve opened one. They are so in-keeping in style with Roald Dahl’s tales that I have no idea how they even got past copyright. I feel it’s unjust and wrong that the likes of George’s Marvellous Medicine, The BFG and The Witches are no longer fabulously unique. The niche has been infiltrated by this imposter. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with David Walliams writing children’s fiction, it’s the fact he’s trying to be the new Roald Dahl that I have a problem with.
Come up with your own ideas Walliams, don’t copy one of the highest esteemed children’s writers ever and expect to get away with it.
Over and out.