You know that famous Monty Python sketch, the Four Yorkshiremen one in which the men outdo each other’s hardships? Yes, that one. Well The Legend of the Worst Boy in the World by Eoin Colfer is sort of like a kids’ version of that but done with so much more heart and tenderness.
It’s a deceptively clever book in which nothing much really happens and right at the end you get it. You realise what it’s all been about and it’s quite lovely.
I was surprised at just how much Toby responded to this book. He adored it and really related to the central character of Will.
Basically, Will is a boy who is often ignored. He has four other brothers so as you can imagine his house is busy and he is rarely able to grab his mum’s or dad’s attention to discuss his problems.
So every week he escapes to his grandparent’s place in Duncade. His grandfather is a lighthouse keeper (the coolest job for a grandad ever) so they climb up the lighthouse together and Will confides his worries.
His grandfather challenges him to a contest. Every week they must swap stories of bad luck to see who has had the worst experience.
Of course, every week Grandad completely outdoes Will with his sob stories.
Will is determined to win but realises that not many bad things have happened to him so he asks Dad, and his father recalls a terrible tale from when Will was two and was terrorised by older brother Marty, resulting in him being abandoned on a road.
This book is a fairly gentle read for children but this section had Toby sobbing his heart out and I thought I’d need to abandon it. I’m proud that my son has empathy but it’s not nice to seem him distressed during a bedtime story. I suppose it’s testament to Eoin Colfer’s great writing.
Will was desperate to share this episode from his past with Grandad and it was of course the winning story. But Grandad had one final tale for Will and this one helped him realise that by sharing even bigger problems than Will’s, Grandad was helping Will see that his problems were quite small.
So there was a very subtle and helpful message running through all along. Perfect for small boys with big thoughts.
Fun factor: 3/5
Fidget factor: 0/5
Fear factor: 3/5 – when Will’s older brother planned revenge, Toby was very anxious but other than that there’s really nothing scary in this book.
Page turnability: 3/5
Mum’s final score: 8/10 – beautifully written and enjoyable read for both of us.
Toby’s final score: 10/10 – Toby really enjoyed this and especially related to the central character of Will.