Simon & Schuster, RRP $25.99
What would you do if the whole world suddenly froze? Would you panic? Would you pinch yourself to see if you were dreaming? I’ll tell you what you’d do, you’d get your phone out and start filming, let’s be honest. But, BUT, imagine if time did freeze. Just for a few minutes. Think of all the sweets you could loot or the mischief you could get up to with a Sharpie and the top lips of your office mates… just sayin’.
Of course this is the boring old real world and time doesn’t freeze. Or does it? You wouldn’t know, would you? Unless you’re a Pausewalker… just like Hamish.
It’s tough being a kid living in England’s fourth most boring town where nothing exciting ever happens. But things are about to change in Starkley. Hamish is just a normal boy, sitting in a boring old classroom, listening to his boring old teacher talking about boring old soil erosion, and watching his boring old classmates being just as bored as he is. That is until everything stops. Like stop stops. The gobbet of spit flying from Mr Longblather’s lips, Grenville Bile and his snot burrowing finger, even the clouds in the sky. Hamish has to figure out why this is happening and how to stop it, but not before he gets to have a little fun while the whole world is at a stand still.
Before breaking into the world of children’s stories, Danny Wallace seemed to be a bastion of the manboy-challenges-himself-to-something-stupid-and-then-writes-about-it genre. Danny I, King of Lovely*, brings to this story the humour and, most especially, the warmth that mark his previous works. Hamish and the Worldstoppers is touching without being sentimental. Hamish’s determination to find his father gives the story moments that feel as though they are teetering on the precipice of heartbreak. And the story is funny, it really is but as I was reading I couldn’t shake the small niggling feeling that it was trying a little too hard to appeal to kids—or what grown-ups think will appeal to kids. And maybe crazy big emphasised words and talking about snot does appeal to kids. I just know it didn’t appeal to me when I was one. That’s not a great point I’m making because I was, admittedly, a strange child. I’m sure “normal” children will love it.
The monsters however are a wonderfully grotesque bunch of Terribles, lollopping about and schlurping around during the pauses, doing nasty things. These enormous beasts might well be the new giants. And when I say giants, I mean how if you were ever awake around the witching hour and happened to look out the window and thought maybe, just maybe, a giant might lumber into the backyard at any moment and see you and have you for supper unless it was the BFG and then maybe you’d survive. Well, that but now with Terribles instead of giants. Not that I’m scared of looking out the window at midnight and seeing giants mind you. Not me. Uh-uh… Seeing a T-Rex pop up next to the window staring in with its creepy eye and then roaring at me, well, that’s another matter.
Another fine aspect is the time honoured tradition of creating made-up food in children’s stories. The world has been awaiting the invention of Enid Blyton’s pop biscuits and google buns for 73 years (the internet has tried but alas, the recipes live not up to their promise) but I could definitely crack open a packet of Mustn’tgrumbles with my tea. You don’t even need to make a special biscuit, just put the name on a packet and you’re done. As far as I know these don’t actually exist and may or may not be a nod to either an album by Chas & Dave or to Terry Wogan’s autobiography.
Jamie Littler illustrates the action wonderfully and gives the reader always enjoyable flick-book animations at the bottom of the pages.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read about the extremely interesting topic of soil erosion.
*And yes, I am one of the 58,165 passport wielding citizens of Lovely, otherwise known as King Danny the First’s previous flat.