The Midnight Gang by David Walliams
Ill. by Tony Ross. Harper Collins Children's Books, 2016. ISBN
(Age: Independent readers) Themes: Humour; Hospitals/Illness; Hope; Adventure; Friendship. Walliams has created a great story that is Dahl-esque in style and quality, and fun for all ages. The children in the Children's Ward at Lord Funt Hospital are at the mercy of horrible adults with gross manners and unpleasant personalities (except for the unfortunate but caring Porter). Despite their illnesses and injuries they band together as The Midnight Gang to give themselves hope and joy . . . and a Midnight adventure. Young Tom, whose unlucky cricket injury has caused his Hospital excursion, has escaped his horrible existence at his very expensive but oppressive boarding school for medical care and has become the latest participant in the adventure at Midnight. This is a story of the power of friendship and hope, despite the pressures of the adult world around the children, and the gravity of illness. And their adventures are just wonderful! The image of the 99-year old dementia patient floating off over London with her misappropriated collection of helium balloons is delightful!
Walliams has written this with considerable comedic flair and the book will appeal to readers who also love Roald Dahl's dark humour, but there is also the potential to see a message hidden beneath the light-hearted (and almost farcical) imaginary journey. Tony Ross's cartoon-like illustrations add quirky and extremely humourous visual detail to the text. This is a book that independent readers will love, but would also make an enjoyable 'shared text' read by a teacher or parent to an eager listener keen to hear a 'funny story'.