Left to right: Martin McKean, Janet Stewart, Sheryl Shurville, David Walliams and Mark Jackson Hancock

The Wonder of Walliams

2nd June 2017

Lisa Botwright jostles for space amongst hundreds of excited children to meet writer, actor and tv personality David Walliams…

It’s one of the hottest days of the year, with the unexpectedly glorious sunshine lending a Mediterranean feel as crowds gather to line the high street of the normally sleepy village of Chorleywood. Children are running around in excited circles, laughing with friends and the hubbub of adult voices only adds to the adrenalin-charged atmosphere.

The focus of the crowd’s attention is the entrance to the bookshop in the centre of the village. For inside – here to sign copies of his new book ‘The World’s Worst Children 2’ – is beloved children’s author and prime-time-tv-royalty David Walliams.

“Chorleywood Bookshop are so excited to have David Walliams join us,” owner Sheryl Shurville tells me as we survey the crowd of eager readers stretching all the way up the hill. Tickets for the half term event had sold out in record time, with ardent pleas from disappointed parents for ‘any spare tickets’ being shared on local online forums within hours.

To add to the carnival atmosphere, many children have dressed up and Sheryl points out the fantastic looking gangster grannies, demon dentists, boys in dresses, rat burgers, and members of the midnight gang. “These are
Chorleywood’s worst boys and girls,” she laughs.

Walliams, whose books have sold 12.5 million copies and been translated into 46 languages to date, inspires the kind of love and devotion amongst today’s children that the older generation reserve for the likes of Enid Blyton, Roger Hargreaves and Roald Dahl.

Walliams’ characters are big, bold and fun, displaying the exaggerated moral traits of pantomime heroes and villains. His brand of escapist bedtime reading appears to be universally adored, happily belying the claims of those who worry that our youngsters are too distracted by screens to read anymore.

He takes his seat to begin the signing and the first youngsters are ushered in by Sheryl to meet their hero. Until now, Walliams has cut a quiet and reserved figure (albeit a rather handsome one: he’s very tall and broad-shouldered). As soon as the children enter, however, he unleashes the full intensity of his charm and charisma. Despite the long queues, he unhurriedly goes out of his way to make each child feel special, teasing them about their costumes and offering them Maltesers from the big glass bowl in front of him (all the children seemed to know that he adores Maltesers – like knowing the special password into a secret club).

Jaiden, 7, floats away from the table clutching his newly signed book, “That was amazing,” he whispers to me, “I’m literally going to faint.”

People say that you should never meet your hero. I think this little boy, and all the other children waiting outside in the sun, would disagree.

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