For a couple of years, I've been vaguely aware that, over in the UK, children have been reading and loving a series of books featuring a boy nicknamed "Horrid Henry," written by Francesca Simon, and illustrated by Tony Ross. Friends there have recommended them to me, I've seen them on lists of books nominated for the British children's choice awards, and I've seen that sometimes Horrid Henry books have been the winners (Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman won the Galaxy Award in 2008, and Horrid Henry Robs the Bank is on the 2009 short list) . What I hadn't seen, here in the United States, were the books themselves (on my trips to England, mostly I am looking in used bookstores for books for me).
But this has now changed (um, not the part about me, which is still true). As of April 1, 2009, the first four (of sixteen) Horrid Henry books are available in the US! And my eight-year old and I have read them.
These books are:
Horrid Henry Tricks the Toothfairy
Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb
Horrid Henry and the Mega Mean Time Machine
In a nutshell, Henry is a Bad Child. Any adjective that you can think of that would fit a bad child (rude, stubborn, picky, obnoxious, selfish, etc) could be applied to the boy. His little brother, however, is Perfect. Henry butts heads with the world (which he often finds not to his taste), his family, his teacher and classmates, and just about everyone he comes into contact with, in stories that are funny in a slightly un-nice, slapsticky way. For instance, Henry uses other campers' tent pegs to start a campfire, which would never have occurred to a Good Child, such as myself.
Yet despite the Horrid things Henry does, he is smart, and funny, and (almost) likable...My son (being, on the whole, eager to please), was somewhat taken aback, but none the less enjoyed the books. At 80-90 pages, with lots of black and white illustrations, these are great for the youngish independent reader.
Reviewing this series is tricky. It is easy to say "children will love the subversive wit" "children will be delighted by Henry's antics" etc, but what I really want to talk about is Henry's parents and what they are doing wrong, and what I would do if Henry and his brother ("Perfect Peter") were my children. But I realize that this is not the point. So I will fall back on "I am sure that American kids will read these books with just as much enjoyment as the children over in the UK on whom they have already been tested..." or something like that.
For more about Horrid Henry, and to read a sample story (Horrid Henry Tricks the Toothfairy, which is a very good one), here's the publisher's website- Sourcebooks.