Ted Rules the World by Frank Cottrell Boyce is the last book in my latest parcel from dyslexia friendly publisher, Barrington Stoke. I decided to save it until last because I knew it would be my favourite of all the books they had sent me, and I just finished reading The Astounding Broccoli Boy and this was by way of consoling myself that I was not quite yet up to date with what Cottrell Boyce has written. Sadly, having finished this, I am now.
I mean no disrespect to the other books I have reviewed, they were all great and I was given some world class authors to review, but I cannot tell a lie about how I, and my children, feel about a new book from Frank, and there’s no point trying to hide our outrageous bias towards all things Cottrell Boyce.
We were not disappointed.
I confess that I read the book myself first. Then I read it to my two youngest children at breakfast the following day who were moaning because I’d already read it without them. Then I went to fetch it to review and found that my sixteen year old had snuck off upstairs with it and was chortling away to herself. She particularly liked the fact that the government try to keep Ted’s silence with a threat of living with ‘no TV and only goats for company.’ She’s a huge fan of goats.
I’ve only just got the book back.
Ted is a young boy afflicted with red hair and a family commitment to supporting Stockport County football club. This has, up to now, made life somewhat tricky and a little disappointing. The story begins on Ted’s birthday when he wakes early thinking his mum and dad are downstairs planning the most amazing birthday surprise ever.
Instead they are asleep on the sofa, having stayed up all night to watch the election of the country’s new Prime Minister.
Ted’s birthday doesn’t start well, and being bullied on the bus on the way to school doesn’t improve matters. On the way home he stops at the new ‘Neighbourhood’ supermarket to buy himself some consolatory birthday Hula Hoops. The lady at the till seems very friendly and extremely interested in Ted.
This interest doesn’t really register with him until he begins to realise that the things he is telling the lady on the tills at Neighbourhood are being featured on the news, as laws enacted by the new Prime Minister.
Ted is, as his friend Benedict says: ‘the Leader.’
It is quite a responsibility.
The book is sharply funny and a thoughtful, clever look at what power does, albeit from an unusual and unorthodox point of view. I love the way that Cottrell Boyce gives the most unlikely characters authority in his books, and how he uses it to comment on society at large. There are times when I glimpse a hint of Pratchettian satire gleaming through his stories, and I rejoice.
The satire will probably be overlooked by the majority of child readers, but it is one of the things that makes Cottrell Boyce’s books so readable both for adults and children, and makes them works you can come back to time and again, whether it be short stories like this, and Desirable, or full length novels like Millions.
The cover art by Chris Riddell is a real treat. I thought I might be underwhelmed by the main illustrations by Cate James, given the illustrious company she’s keeping, but she more than holds her own here. The images are crisp, funny and well suited to the material.
The inside covers feature a test to see how you’d measure up as a Prime Minister yourself, and a chance to illustrate your own funny news segment for television. The usual cover flaps help people like me who are forever losing bookmarks, and the clear font, short chapter lengths, and cream pages give the usual Barrington Stoke polish to the book, making it much easier for anyone struggling with reading disabilities, and elderly ladies like myself with poor eyesight.
As well as being excellent for me, and my family, Barrington Stoke recommends this book to children aged eight and up. It has an interest age ranging from five to eight. I’d say if you love Cottrell Boyce’s novels, which are aimed at an older readership, do not be put off by this. This and Desirable, are of just as high a standard as his novels and have many of the same themes.
You can sample the first chapter by clicking the link, here.
There is a Q&A session with Frank Cottrell Boyce about Ted Rules the World, here.