I must admit this is the first David Walliams book I have read. Walliams is well known for his comedy and it goes without saying that his books are filled with clever humour. I was expecting funny. What I wasn’t expecting, was the depth of issues and emotions this book dealt with as well.
The Midnight Gang delves head on into some of kids’ biggest fears and insecurities. It deals with loneliness, friendship, parental abandonment, physical deformity, sickness and even death. Yet it does so in a non-confronting way that is interspersed with laugh out loud funny moments.
Tom wakes up confused in the very strange Lord Funt Hospital. He soon realises he’s there because he has been hit on the head with a cricket ball at St Willet’s Boarding School for Boys and, after being assessed by a doctor not much older than himself, he is moved to the Children’s Ward. It is here that he discovers the Midnight Gang.
The Midnight Gang is a secret gang of children who go on midnight adventures in the hospital. Tom follows them and his adventures begin, all whilst dressed in the frilly pink nighty Matron forces him to wear because he didn’t bring his pyjamas.
When Tom is declared well enough to return to school, he must find a way to stay in hospital as the Midnight Gang have one last very important mission to undertake. However, to do that, he is going to need the help of the frighteningly misshapen Porter, with his lopsided face and withered leg.
This book is undeniably funny, particularly for kids. Snot is sneezed in faces, needles shoved in bums and lots of embarrassing things happen that will have kids laughing so long and hard they forgot what they were laughing at to begin with.
Tony Ross’s marvellous illustrations really bring this book to life. The opening portraits help readers engage with and remember the characters before the book even starts. From the stereotypical villains in Matron and the Headmaster, to Dilly the filthy cleaner (with a fag hanging from her mouth). And, of course, the children. Amber with her broken arms and legs, George with his recently removed tonsils, Robin with his bandaged eyes, and poor little Sally, the youngest and sickest in the Ward.
The clever use of fonts and text layout make it fun and easy to read as it is not too text heavy and is interspersed with expressive and funny illustrations.
Yet with all the humour, this book really is touching. Tom faces his fears and finds himself during his adventures. The children learn that beauty is on the inside, that friends support each other, and
That life is precious. Every moment is precious. We should be kind to each other. While there is still time.
The masterful David Walliams has created a riotously funny yet thoughtful book that deals with big issues in a hilarious way that kids will love.
Title: The Midnight Gang
Author: David Walliams
Illustrator: Tony Ross
Publisher: HarperCollins, $19.99
Publication Date: 9 November 2016
For ages: 8 – 12
Type: Middle Grade