I was sent an advance copy of Birthday Boy by Netgalley in exchange for my review.
Until this point I’d only ever read David Baddiel’s novels for adults, which I enjoyed very much. I have to be honest and say that I had a little trouble imagining how he would transition across to children’s writing though, but as my ten year old son rates him highly, I thought I’d give this a whirl.
Having read Birthday Boy I can now see why my son loves his books. Deftly written, the plotting moves at speed so that there is no chance of the reader becoming bored or distracted, the narrative simply doesn’t allow you to stop.
Sam Green wakes up on his birthday, after months of fevered excitement and planning. The day is as wonderful as he anticipated, and that night, looking through his new telescope and spying a shooting star, he wishes that every day could be his birthday.
Over the course of the book, Sam finds out the truth of the adage, ‘be careful what you wish for,’ as birthday after birthday dulls his appetites and starts taking a ruinous toll on his family. He has to figure out a way to stop the magic working and get his ordinary life back.
The moral of the tale is handled with humour and a lightness of touch that mean the narrative never gets bogged down in wordiness or sentimentality, which I like. There are some great supporting characters. I particularly love Sam’s long suffering guinea pig whose facial expressions are a running joke throughout the book. There’s a good mix of characters and great, strong roles for girls. I also loved the grandparents, who seem to be an homage to Charlie’s grandparents in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It’s particularly lovely that there is more than a nod to Baddiel’s own father, Colin.
The book is generous, kind and funny, taking inspiration from some classic tropes of children’s fiction and making them fresh for a new generation of readers. Perfect for children aged 7 and up.