Ten of the Best Heirs to Roald Dahl


2016 marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl with celebrations nationwide of his gloriumptious stories and characters. But of the many authors who have followed in his wake, which have brought the most fun, magic and laughter to children’s books? Nicholas Tucker chooses ten of the best heirs to Dahl.

How to Train Your Dragon

Cressida Cowell, Hachette, 214pp, 978- 0-34099907-3, £6.99 pbk

Skinny Hiccup Horrendous Haddock 111 is not a natural hero. Dominated by his Viking chief father Stoick the Vast and the victim of his hated rival Snotlout, he now has to enlist for the notoriously dangerous Dragon Initiation Programme. This involves first capturing and then training your own dragon, and how Hiccup and his only friend Fishlegs achieve this takes up the rest of the book. Illustrated with the author’s own wildly funny drawings, this constantly entertaining story plus the many that came after is a must. Two film adaptations followed with a third promised for 2018.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney, Penguin, 221pp, 978-1014132490-6, £6.99 pbk

Teenage Greg Heffley is one of life’s born losers but he is always up and ready for the next disastrous idea for improving his rock-bottom social reputation at school. His buck-tooth friend Rowley is even more hopeless. Their adventures are told in hilarious cartoon form by an American author with a universal sense of humour. This is the first book in a long series but any other title would do. No doubt about it: Jeff Kinney is a comic

genius. The Grunts All at Sea

Philip Ardagh, Nosy Crow, 272pp, 978-0-85763280-7, £5.99 pbk

One of four titles celebrating the Grunt family, the humour here successfully combines slapstick with the surreal as only this author can. Each page carries a verbal surprise but there is also a firm story line. This time the determined if unattractive Mr Grunt tries to transport a Person of Great Importance to a secret destination. A large reward beckons, but problems arise from a big- earringed cyclist. Axel Scheffler’s zany illustrations add to the fun.

The Last Dragonslayer

Jasper Fforde, Hodder & Stoughton, 287pp,

978-1-44470720-5, £6.99 pbk

This is the first in a trilogy featuring Jennifer Strange, the fifteen– year old orphan manager of an employment agency for sorcerers. Magic

is no longer profitable,

with drain cleaner much cheaper than commissioning a spell. Yet Jennifer remains convinced that something evil is in the wind, and strives to marshal her grumpy band of out-of-work magicians for a final last effort. Jasper Fforde is a wonderfully inventive writer; he also is a master of comic one-liners. This hugely enjoyable book has two equally brilliant successors.

The Amulet of Samarkand

Jonathan Stroud,

Random House, 462pp, £7.99, 978-0-55256279-9, pbk

Nathaniel is a magician’s

apprentice. Tiring of his lowly status, he steals an amulet that summons up a powerful but ferociously bad-tempered djinni with extensive magical powers. Despite their terrible relationship they still manage to defeat an evil demon intent on world domination. Frequent footnotes explaining the ways of djinnis are as comic as the main text itself. Three more titles take these characters further along a narrative that brilliantly combines the scary with plenty of laughs.

12 Books for Keeps No.220 September 2016

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