Our most recent bookclub book (younger group) achieved a positive response from all the children. They all warmed to the character of Mr Stink; one boy particularly appreciated the scene where Mr Stink appeared on television. Other than that, they admitted that they did not find the book 'laugh out loud' funny.
I was slightly disarmed by the fact that this book was clearly designed to look like a Roald Dahl book, and felt this set the story up to be something it was not. I can see the marketing angle, but to offer comparison between the talents of both men was unhelpful. David Walliams failed to be a 'Roald Dahl' for me, but having been encouraged to make the comparison, I failed to hear his voice, and felt the whole book was derivative, which I think is probably unfair.
It is however always delightful to see Quentin Blake's illustrations, so for the session, I chose to look at some of Quentin Blake's own illustrated stories, by exploring the role of the 'eccentric' in children's stories.
In groups we read, 'Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave', 'Mr Magnolia', and 'Cockatoos'. From these we came up with a checklist of things that an eccentric character needs to have; obsessive behaviour or unusual interest, unusual appearance, interesting way of speaking, unusual name....
The group then brainstormed ideas for two characters, which I drew on the whiteboard, and they drew their own versions on paper. I must admit there was a tendency to prefer to design unpleasant characters, but we agreed that eccentrics are likeable, so had to ditch many of the more unpleasant suggestions....
Here were our brrainstormed ideas:
Name: Darling McDuck.
Appearance: a Top hat with champagne corks hanging from it, jester shoes, a duck beak shaped nose, webbed hands.
Unusual behaviours: collects Champagne corks but hates Champagne. Talks nonsense, such as, "Propesous is necessary". Makes random animal sounds. Keeps ducks and gives away their eggs.
Name: Doctor Macaroni.
Appearance: Overweight, with clown shoes, and a Top hat.
Unusual behaviours: Always eating macaroni. Confuses his festivals (Christmas at Easter etc.). Makes friends out of macaroni, which he then eats.Greets visitors by throwing macaroni over them. Doesn't speak, but has a constant supply of paper speech bubbles, which he writes his speech on.
The stories for these characters have yet to be written.....