'They say cometh the hour cometh the man. This means when a situation demands it, the right person - it could be a woman, despite what Sexist Dave would tell you - will appear. This was the hour and in this case the man was a Piper. A Pied Piper.'
You'll be enchanted and revolted in equal measure by the host of characters you meet in Russell Brand's Hamelin: the anarchic rats, the arrogant townspeople, sharp-eyed Sam and of course the Pied Piper himself, all brought to life in Brand's inimitable style and with the illustrations of Children's Laureate Chris Riddell. From Goodreads.
I have admired the hardback of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Russell Brand, illustrated by Chris Riddell from afar for quite a while. Having read and loved The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, another fairy tale retelling that Riddell illustrated, I was really intrigued to see what he would do with this interpretation, too. However, I must admit, that I wasn't sure how seriously Brand would take retelling a fairy tale, so I've always been a bit wary. But my desire to see Riddell's illustrations won out when I was offered a review copy of the paperback from Canongate books.
As this is a retelling of a well known fairy tale, I'm not going to summarise the story: we all know the general premise. I have to say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! Brand has written this comedic retelling how he speaks, with intelligence but with his unique turn of phrase. Fans of Brand are going to love this for his wonderful way with words, and what's brilliant is that he hasn't dumbed himself down for this children's book. There are "big" words and slang terms throughout, but each new word a child reading might not understand is defined on the page, and there's a glossary at the back, too.
The fairy tale is written with Brand's usual humour, but also including jokes, like toilet humour, children will also find funny - and it will be no surprise to anyone that Brand easily blends the two. With The Pied Piper of Hamelin, he's created a brilliantly funny take on a classic story that will amuse adults and children alike.
Despite the fact that adults will enjoy this too, it's definitely a children's book. Considering this, what's brilliant is Brand's moral additions to this story. As well as the general snobby attitude the Hamelinians have, Brand has included Sexist Dave, who has some awful opinions, and Brand makes it quite clear this behaviour is not acceptable. The book also includes phrases like, "what matters are invisible things like truth, love and honour," "all children are perfect," "important prizes can't be won by individuals, only by us all," and "you should always want to know more" - all wonderful ideas to instill in children.
And look at those gorgeous illustrations! Riddell can easily create beauty, but he also has such a knack for the grotesque. This is a book of art as well as a brilliant story, and one to be admired for the artwork as well as read for the humour. Brand and Riddell make the perfect partnership, as Brand's storytelling and descriptions give Riddell so much to work with to show off his unique style.
This is the first in Brand's Trickster Tales, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he writes next in the series - and I really hope Riddell will illustrate the future tales, too!
Thank you to Cannongate Books for the review copy.