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Mr Stink is a tramp. He lives on a bench in the local park, and no one speaks to him, or his dog The Duchess because they both really pong. However, when schoolgirl Chloe stumbles across him one day, she decides that she wants be different to anyone else - she doesn't ignore him, and rather begins to talk to him, and the pair strike up an unusual friendship. Chloe's mum, Mrs Crumb, is a wannabe politician, and is determined to rid the streets of chavs, set a curfew, and once and for all get rid of all of the homeless people. She has no idea that her daughter is hiding a tramp in their garden shed, and Chloe doesn't expect for Mr Stink to be the one who really changes her life. A young girl befriending a tramp... what on earth could possibly go wrong?!
I've known for a while that David Walliams has written children's books, but as he isn't my cup of tea as a comedian, I was reluctant to read his books as well. However, we were at the library after school one day, and Harry likes to pick a few books from the older children's section for me to read him at bedtime. He chose this one, mainly because he said the drawings like the ones in The BFG and Matilda, both books by Roald Dahl he absolutely loved, and of course, he was right - Quentin Blake illustrated both of those titles, and this one by Walliams too. I wasn't too keen, but Harry loved the title and was determined to borrow it, so we did, and began reading it that night. I'm so glad I listened to Harry because it's quickly become one of our favourite books to share, and we're now working our way through Walliams' back list!
Walliams does such a good job of creating these characters in your mind, you can visualise everything clearly as you're reading, especially when it's read aloud and you can put on voices and emphasis on certain things in the book. Harry was absolutely hooked on this book, he was begging for 2 or 3 chapters a night, was laughing out loud a lot and was enthralled by the story, he couldn't wait to pick it up each night which for me is the sign of a really great book for children. It's aimed at 9 years old and upwards, which I think to be a fair assessment of it for independent readers, but Harry is 6 1/2 and understood the story when it was read aloud to him. I didn't think there was anything inappropriate in it for his age either, so I was happy to share this book with him.
Mr Stink was a fantastic character, and you can't help but love him, even when he's grumpy. He and young Chloe have some fantastic banter between them, and the age difference doesn't seem to matter at all which is fantastic. Walliams puts a lot of humour and emotion into his writing, enough to create an atmosphere for the book, and to make young readers laugh which is so important, but it doesn't overshadow the important messages within the book too. It also highlights homelessness, an issue young children may not be fully aware of, and I know that since reading it, Harry has commented several times when we have seen homeless people in our town, and about their stories and questionning why they are living on the streets like Mr Stink. I found it important to discuss these things with him, and I felt Walliams handled the issues really well in the book.
Not only are Chloe and Mr Stink super characters, but there are fantastic sub-plots going on too which kept us involved, and were easy to follow too. The entire Crumb family, especially Chloe's mother, the wannabe politician were fantastic, and it was great fun reading aloud as her, putting on a silly voice and really enjoying her storyline, she was completely bonkers! Raj, who owns the newspaper shop (and who also pops up in other Walliams' books) is hilarious, and I think he was one of Harry's favourite characters! He allows for a lot of laughter, and the scenes with he and Chloe were very funny. It's a great cast of just enough characters to keep the plot moving, but not too many that the young readers won't get confused and muddled up with them all, Harry had no problem keeping up with who was who.
Overall, I cannot recommend Mr Stink highly enough to children of all ages and reading abilities! As a parent, I really looked forward to tucking Harry up in bed and reading him a chapter or two of this every night, and he was so excited to read more too, which was fantastic. It was brilliantly written, with Walliams bringing all of the characters to life, and writing some very important morals and life lessons into the story too. Harry actually cried at the ending of this book, which shows it really touched him, and I know it's a book we'll be rereading again. Walliams has been compared to the legendary Roald Dahl thanks to his books, and now I've read this, I can see why. They're a more modern updated story reflective of our times, but have a great heart and are highly enjoyable - much like Dahl's books. We've now started on Billionaire Boy also by Walliams, and we're loving that just as much! Both Harry and I definitely think you should read Mr Stink, it's just brilliant!
ISBN: 978-0007279067. Published by Harper Collins Children's Books. Pages: 224. RRP: £6.99.
Note: Mr Stink was made into a BBC Drama over Christmas 2012, and was a fantastic performance, even though certain things were altered from the book. I'd recommend looking out for that too, it was great and Harry has rewatched it several times!
Thank you for reading.