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Books for Tweens: The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

I’ve been meaning to share some recommendations and reviews on books for tweens ever since I wrote about UNBORED (which will be released next week — get your copy, it’s fantastic!).

Instead of the traditional “back-to-school” clothing shopping, I took Stella, my 10-year-old daughter who has no interest in clothing, to the bookstore and let her pick a ton of books. (Hey, I was saving a fortune on clothes, so why not?!) One of these books was The Boy in the Dress, by David Walliams.

This is what the book looks like, so you can recognize it on the shelves. And Stella warns that she thought at first it was written by Ronald Dahl because it has the same illustrator (Quentin Blake).

The Boy in the Dress

I haven’t actually read the book yet myself, but in a review on the UK’s The Telegraph, you can get the general gist:

You can’t say you weren’t warned. First, there’s the title, The Boy in The Dress. Then comes the opening line of the book: “Dennis was different.” Yes, the debut children’s novel of Little Britain star David Walliams is indeed about a 12-year-old boy who loves flicking through the pages of Vogue and feeling the soft touch of silky material on his skin.

It’s the first time I’ve come across a kids’ book with a cross-dressing character, but the Guardian points out that there have been others.

The Boy in the Dress isn’t the first children’s cross-dressing title to hit the shelves, of course. There’s Terence Blacker’s underrated novel Boy 2 Girl, reviewed on these pages back in 2004, for example. But Walliams has taken a much more light-hearted approach – with a very silly twist, come the denouement. Having said that, part of the charm of this novel is that the characters really do grow, and the complicated relationships between the members of Dennis’s family are very touching.

Stella thought this book was great and highly recommends it. Some of her comments include:

  • We hear a lot of girls and stereotypes, so I like how this book discusses boys and the stereotypes that they are faced with as well. He likes to play soccer with his brother and Dad but he doesn’t like the clothes that boys are “supposed” to wear.
  • I also like that his best friend is Sikh. I’ve never read a book where there was even one character who was Sikh.
  • Although I haven’t met a boy like this one (Dennis, the main character), I think that everything was pretty realistic … the things that happen, and the reactions people have.

All in all, the book gets a big thumbs up from our household.

The Tween rating is 4 / 5  stars 

To find this book: Available in most book stores. Published by Harper Collins with FSC standards. Age guide from www.harperscollins.co.uk is 9+. I picked up our copy from a local Chapters store for $9.99.

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