'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 5 December 2014

Review: Russell Brand's Trickster Tales: The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Ostensibly this is Russell Brand's first book for children. But this is Russell Brand we're talking about — actor, comedian, radio host and writer, he is anything but conventional and anything but boring — so, not surprisingly, his book isn't a 'kids' book' at all.

I am a fan of Russell Brand's. He's a brilliant writer and his word skills are certainly on display here. I was hooked from his opening paragraph:

Once upon a time, a mysterious time that exists through a window in your mind, a time that seemed, to those present, exactly like now does to us, except their teeth weren't so clean and more things were wooden, there was a town called Hamelin.

But I soon realised this wouldn't be a book I'd be reading with my seven-year-old daughter anytime soon. Most of the kids in Hamelin are so revolting that Brand would love to 'slug them in the guts with a hammer'. The one kid he does like, Sam, has a withered leg and a dysfunctional family. His father, who 'tugs on a fag just below the "No Smoking" sign' is such a swine that Brand decides to cut him from the story on page 6. And when Sam stands up to Hamelin's nasty children by saying 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me', well, that just encourages the kids to throw stones at him to see if they can break his bones.

Yes, this is The Pied Piper of Hamelin as you've never heard it told before. Along the way, Brand makes it clear what he thinks of beauty pageants for kids (not a fan), bullies (Fat Bob the bully, in another example of exquisite writing, runs with a gang because that way 'he didn't have to face up to his own feelings or the quiet sobbing in the corner of his mind') and the materialism that is prevalent in much of Western culture.

Casper, the head of the invading rats, runs 'an anarcho-egalitarian rat-collective' and practices polygamy (his two 'wives' are also actually brother and sister), while the mysterious, glint-eyed Pied Piper is a man who lives by his own code and knows that 'only the moment you live in is real and everything else is pretend'. Brand is at once irreverent and profound. From laughing out loud one minute, I found myself re-reading passages of compelling beauty and insight the next.

If you like Russell Brand, you'll love this. And when your children are older, they probably will too.

Title: Russell Brand's Trickster Tales: The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Author: Russell Brand
Illustrator: Chris Riddell
Publisher: Canongate, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: November 2014
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781782114567
For ages: Adult (for older kids at parental discretion)
Type: Picture Book, Books for Parents