picture credit: Harper Collins
David Baddiel's first children's fiction offering - The Parent Agency, was everything you'd expect from a comedian: social commentary, inventive characters and puns galore. In his second book Baddiel has surrendered gags for story and it's all got a bit more exciting.
The Person Controller is a real page turner or should I say jewel encrusted button presser. Indeed it presses all the right buttons for a generation of young video gamers and adults who may need reminding to switch off those pesky electronic devices once in a while. You can't help but fall in love with Baddiel's protagonists: twins Fred and Ellie Stone (an apt surname for the twin's overweight father) as well as Jim Field's excellent illustrations of their adventures. But what is it about...
Fred and Ellie Stone are twins who love playing video games. They live with their Mum who is obsessed with Cash in the Attic and their Dad who has a weight problem due to his odd diet of bacon sandwiches. They also live with the one of the best named cats in children's fiction: Margaret Scratcher. After Ellie's video game controller is broken by her father's bottom the twins must use the school laptop to search for new controllers. This is when they meet the Mystery Man who provides them with a jewel encrusted new controller free of charge. The twins soon discover that the new device doesn't work with their video games but it does control people and their lives take a turn for the better. But is living life like a video game all it's cracked up to be? Of course not but you will have to read the book to find out why.
Yes story is Queen (not that it's a rockstar but that it's important), in Baddiel's new tale which pulls on your heart strings and reminds us of the strength of sibling love. Don't worry the comedy is still most definitely there it's just carefully balanced to compliment the story: yes the gags have become a tasty garnish to bring out the flavour of the meat. And the meat in question is pork, well bacon to be precise - the passionate hobby of the twins' father, which becomes a running theme throughout the book. Bacon lovers might feel a touch of bacon persecution from the the book's Jewish author although can you blame him it is coming up to pigs-in-blanket time. Many adults will surely relate to dad Eric's "terrible bacon-sandwich retention" and we all want to try his "17:28 diet (which meant not eating anything for a minute between 17:27 and 17:29 every day)". Perhaps a spin-off comedy diet book is on the cards.
The Person Controller is a compelling story with relatable characters and meaningful life lessons such as the importance of believing in yourself and not succumbing to the Disney aesthetic. A lovely family read just in time for Christmas.
Get yourself a copy here.