This week is debut-children’s-novels-from-British-comedians week! Or to be even more precise debut-children’s-novels-from-British-comedians-who were-famous-before-I-left-Britain-in-1997 week! Today we have a book from Julian Clary, best known to me for his partnership with Fanny the Wonder Dog, as the Joan Collins Fan Club, but who has since moved on to many other things. Thursday will be David Baddiel.
This amiable and silly elementary grade fantasy about a hyena family, the Bolds, who live as humans, subtly takes on fitting in, tolerance, and difference.
In the guise of two British tourists who get eaten by crocodiles, an African hyena couple move to suburban England, get jobs, have children, and make friends with everyone except their grumpy neighbor, Mr. McNumpty. It is only when they visit a safari park and meet another family of hyenas, that they decide to do something potentially very foolish.
Camp British TV personality and comedian Clary’s somewhat nannyish narration gives zip to this episodically structured novel. The Bolds, like all stereotypical hyenas, laugh uproariously at everything and their buoyant optimism and can do attitude gives the novel charm. Roberts’ ebullient and toothy illustrations and Mr. Bold’s many corny jokes – his job is to write the riddles for Christmas crackers – keep the tone playful, and there’s some potty humor thrown in as well.
It would have been nice for there to have been a suggestion that there is more to Africa than wild animals and safaris, but this is just not that sort of book. Amusing and cheerful, this will have wide appeal to reluctant readers, as well as lovers of the absurd.