David Walliams came into the Christchurch Boys High auditorium through the crowd – a real rock star entrance. And in kid books circles (and tv entertainment ones) he really is that level of famous. There were about 700 kids and 400 adults here to see Mr Walliams.
Rachael King, WORD Christchurch literary director asked him about the 20 million books he has sold – “All bought and burnt by Simon Cowell”, he said. David had the audience in the palm of his hand from the get go, with stories, heaps of audience participation, and his trademark naughty wit. Even the obligatory Australia diss – The World’s Worst Children?:
Well, I’ve just been in Australia and met a lot of the children …
He read us the tragic tale of Windy Mindy whose farting into wind instruments leads to a galactic end.
The kids in the audience served up stories about why their siblings are so bad. One answer had the crowd in stitches (beautifully conveyed in this tweet):
Bad Dad is his latest bestseller, and tells the story of Frank, whose Dad is a banger driver who ends up in jail after being a getaway driver. David read for us a rather splendid excerpt about how one might get the dreadful medical condition Bottom Freeze (including cryogenically freezing your bottom for posterity).
David’s favourite of his own books is Gangsta Granny (my kid’s fave too), and it came from listening to his own Gran’s stories about the Blitz:
Every old person has a story to tell.
He read Gangsta Granny’s famous naked yoga scene (and see Tony Ross’s brilliant illustration came up on the big screen). David gave a big shoutout to his illustrators Tony Ross and Quentin Blake – both in their 80s.
Walliams explained a bit about why he loves a villain:
Without Voldemort, Harry Potter would just be having a lovely day at school.
Burt, the Ratburger villain, was inspired by a contestant in Britain’s got talent who ate cockroaches. Ergh. Miss Trunchbull (from Roald Dahl’s Matilda) is one of his fave villains. It’s that combo of funny and evil, and who wouldn’t want to be a villain (for a day).
We got to see sneak preview clips of Ratburger (Walliams himself is unrecognisable as the grotty villain), and Grandpa’s Great Escape (Jennifer Saunders is the Matron in that, and veteran actor Tom Courtenay is Grandpa.) He is that rarest of beasts – an author who gets to see his creations come to life first hand, because he stars in the adaptations.
David admits he was a reluctant reader. He went to the library with his family every couple of weeks, and would pick books on the solar system, space travel, and dinosaurs. And then he discovered Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It got him into reading, and to writing.
Roald Dahl is his “gold standard”. When he visited Dahl’s Gypsy Cottage and met his widow, she said kids still ring the doorbell and ask to meet the author. David has visited the Roald Dahl Story Museum and looked at the handwritten manuscripts. He clearly loved the writing set up of Roald Dahl – sitting in armchair, a picture of his much-missed daughter nearby, with a big ball of rolled up choccie wrappers to add to, and a telephone (to put a sly bet on the gee gees).
And David loves his fan mail, and who wouldn’t when kids are so honest:
Little Britain fans – he thinks the funniest thing he’s ever written is this:
10 lucky kids got to ask a question, and got a fab box set of Walliams’ books. A ripper of a prize I reckon. Thanks to David Walliams, WORD Christchurch, HarperCollins New Zealand, Merivale Paper Plus, and the crew involved in the event – and to everyone who came along, you rocked and made it a fun whānau night. It was especially awesome to get to get your book signed and a picture taken. Ka rawe!