cover image The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress

David Walliams, , illus. by Quentin Blake. . Penguin/Razorbill, $15.99 (231pp) ISBN 978-1-59514-299-3

Actor and Little Britain cocreator Walliams debuts with the charming, Billy Elliot -esque coming-of-age story of 12-year-old Dennis, who lives with his father and older brother in a dull British town whose “[t]iny differences... only really pointed out the sameness of everything.” Still despondent two years after his mother walked out, Dennis is chastised for his interest in fashion, but continues to secretly read Vogue (“He could lose himself in the pages for hours. The glamour. The beauty. The perfection”) and admire people's differences. When Dennis befriends Lisa, “the most beautiful girl in the school” (and his crush), they bond over their shared passion and begin to play dressup. The stakes are raised when Lisa challenges him to attend school for a day dressed as a female foreign exchange student. This is a prototypical tale about the joys and trials of nonconformity, told by a quirky and self-conscious narrator. Walliams has a talent for emotional honesty (be it in Dennis's sensitivity or his father's gruff remoteness), and Blake's distinctive illustrations capture the boy's thoughtful nature. Ages 9–up. (Dec.)