Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Horrid Henry, again

U.S. publishers, please, I beg you, take notice.

Dina Rabinovitch talks to Francesca Simon about her wonderful, funny, subversive series Horrid Henry (for the Guardian). Rabinovitch writes, "In the US they won't publish them, ostensibly because the stories are 'too British' but, Simon understands, in reality because Henry's wickedness is just too dangerous for the current goody-goody trend in American parenting."

I think Horrid Henry is a modern Ramona Quinby. Henry is not as well-meaning as Ramona, perhaps, but his older brother Peter is a lot like the infuriatingly (to Ramona) perfect Beezus. Rabinovitch explains,
  • The Simon twist is that the horrid one is the hero. The bad guy is likeable, while Peter is intolerable -and she doesn't just do that subliminally; not always, but pretty regularly, Henry comes out on top. It is this that accounts for the stories' particular appeal to children - the sheer naughtiness of a grown-up author applauding, indeed celebrating, bad behaviour in a series of very brightly-covered tales with excellent illustrations, to be found in every school library in the country.

The Horrid Henry books are really great (first) chapter books to read aloud. I read several volumes to both of my children when they were four years old. As Rabinovitch notes, "Simon doesn't do underage sex or parental breakdowns. Consequently she is universally popular - four-year-olds can laugh uproariously at her stories, and teenagers read them without embarrassment." That is so, so true. My eldest still reads Horrid Henry, my youngest likes us to read them to him, and I find them funny while reading.