Danny Dread by Ben Davis was sent to me by the Amazon Vine review programme in exchange for my honest opinion.
Ben Davis is better known to me as the author of the teen/YA novels; The Private Blog of Joe Cowley and its sequel, both of which I have reviewed on here.
Danny Dread is for younger readers. The publisher has chosen to herald it as the natural stablemate of books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates. I would beg to differ.
Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid, as regular readers will know, are fantastic transitional novels (chapter books), in which short chapters, sparse text and masses of illustration make them a perfect bridging tool from picture book to novel for readers who are struggling with purely text based books.
Danny Dread does not have quite the same readability, in that it is much more textually dense, and although it does have illustrations, they are sparser and many are jammed in amidst the text. I would say that the humour is quite similar however, but Danny Dread will appeal to a more confident reader, perhaps someone who has exhausted the Wimpy Kid books and needs a bit more of a challenge in terms of what they read next.
The story is great. Danny Dread is the latest in a long line of evil super villains in the Dread family. Unfortunately the genius for wreaking mayhem seems to be weakening with every generation that passes. Danny’s dad has become a laughing stock amongst his super villain peers, as each new scheme he comes up with gets more and more ridiculous and riddled with failures.
Danny’s plight is even worse. Danny doesn’t even want to be a super villain. He hates hurting people, he can’t bear the thought of achieving world domination and crushing nations under foot. Danny, in fact, has a huge crush on the daughter of the Super Hero family, the Lionhearts. He even keeps a scrap book dedicated to Crystallina’s exploits. His greatest wish is to escape his destiny, join Crystallina and turn his efforts to ensuring world peace, but how can he do that without hurting his dad?
The story opens with Danny failing another year at Super Villain academy and going home in disgrace. His father tries to support and understand his son, but has pressures of his own. Hiring a new evil assistant seems to be the answer to his problems, and it looks like Danny’s dad will finally revive the failing fortunes of the Dread family, but what will this mean for Danny?
The book is packed full of daft incidents, last minute near misses in terms of evil plans hatched and executed and lots of humour filled excitement. The writing is strong and any weaknesses in character development look set to be rectified as this promises to be one of a series of books about Danny. The cartoonish illustrations perfectly accentuate the graphic novel/cartoon tropes of the book and work really well to bring the book to life. I particularly liked the sub plot about the giant pelican, and its accompanying illustrations.
I’d recommend it to confident readers aged 7-11. It is largely aimed at a boy readership, but Crystallina Lionheart is a promising girl character who may well blossom in the next book and who provides a focus for any girl readers who might feel short changed at the predominantly male cast in this current volume.