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This book caught my eye in a second hand book shop a few weeks ago because of the illustrations by Chris Riddell more than anything else. I like Russell Brand’s work, but I was understandably wary about him writing a children’s book, given the nature of his adult material and also publishers who publish celebrities simply because they were celebrities. I flicked through it in the shop and it looked alright, and I thought my son would love it because of the brilliant illustrations by Riddell, so I bought it despite my misgivings and the fact that I have always hated the story of The Pied Piper.

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He read the whole thing in one sitting, very excitedly telling me that it had lots of rude words in it. Given that he is reading me all the Disc World books I felt that horse had already bolted, so merely sighed and thought I would have to read it before I loaned it to any other children.

When he’d finished it, he gave it to my 17 year old daughter to read, who also read it in one sitting. She put it firmly on the top of my to read pile and insisted I read it because I would love it. I did read it, and I did love it. And Oscar is right. It’s full of rude words!

I’ve always hated the Pied Piper story. I always felt so sorry for the little boy on crutches who gets left behind at the end of the story. It seemed so unfair to leave him with the horrible people of Hamelin. The whole story is just downright mean.

Brand subverts this and without changing the plot at all, manages to turn it from a mean hearted parable that smacks of Victorian morality to an anarchic, funny story in which the weakest, most despised person in the story is the one who reaps the rewards.

It’s scatalogically fruity, quite demented and at times laugh out loud funny. It’s thought provoking and clever and the illustrations by Riddell only add to the anarchistic genius of the book. I found it completely refreshing and would think it is a perfect book to entice reluctant readers into enthusiasm and would work wonderfully for the tens and overs as long as you’ve got a strong threshold for rudeness.

 

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