Image: HarperCollins Children's Books
There aren't many books that have a central character called Barry - except perhaps Barry White biographies - so in the first few pages you realise David Baddiel's new book is a little different. This is a children's comedy book and I am an adult but we all know Harry Potter books are meant to be for kids and people proudly wield those on tube journeys. There are many reasons adults should read children's books: they tend to be more fun, more outlandish and the writing is much bigger so you finish them in a ridiculously short time and feel proud. Baddiel's new book should be read by adults and children alike and the excellent word puns can be enjoyed by both. Let's do a synopsis.
Barry Bennett hates his name - even though it has excellent alliteration - and he blames his parents entirely. He's not a fan of his parents at all, although he is a huge fan of James Bond and footballer Lionel Messi. One night in his bedroom Barry wishes he had different parents and 007 and Lionel transport him to United Kid-dom - I told you about the excellent word puns. United Kid-dom is a magical world where children choose their own parents and so Barry has the opportunity to try a few different parents on for size. With wonderful illustrations by Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner, Jim Field
It's an appealing story and I am sure most children - and most adults - have wanted different parents at some point or another, so its easy to relate to. There are some odd toilet humour type moments which feel out of place and I am not sure how rounded Barry is as a character. Do children's books need rounded child characters? It would be nice I suppose, maybe it is just a comment on people called Barry. The adult characters however, are wonderful creations. The aptly named Rader-Wellorffs are gloriously posh, shooting birds as a hobby but they show their caring side by the end. Hippies Elliot and Mama Cool live a free life, letting children do whatever they want but are having lifestyle and tent-based regrets. Then there is Vlassorina, a famous couple who have combined their names and who put everything on social media, including the United Kid-dom equivalent of twitter: Birdynoise. There is of course a touching resolution where Barry comes to his senses as well as a little twist on the 'it's all been a dream' scenario you might be expecting. Baddiel leaves us happy in the knowledge that we have the best parents for us and that when you least expect it people can surprise you.
What's different about The Parent Agency is that it reads more like an adult's book with witty word play, a strong story arc and modern references. However the magical heart and kids taking charge storyline absolutely appeals to children as well, making it the perfect book for a family read. The Parent Agency is an engaging, thoroughly enjoyable book and as I have mentioned I am mad about the marvellous word-play.
If you fancy a read grab yourself a copy here