Ricky Gervais and Harry Hill
Once upon a time, it was perfectly acceptable for an entertainer to devote their life to one career. These days, however, if you don’t learn to ice skate, cook or dash off a kids’ book in your spare time, you’re a veritable time-waster. The children’s literary genre has attracted many a celeb in recent years – Madonna, Kylie and Whoopi Goldberg to name but three – and, given their obvious appeal, they’ve all notched up more book sales than most genuine children’s authors could dream of.
Harry Hill first dipped his toe in the kiddie water last year, with the odd but likeable Tim the Tiny Horse. But his latest offering, The Further Adventures of the Queen Mum smacks of self-indulgence. Referencing such dead luminaries as Arthur Askey, Keith Moon and Tommy Cooper, this colourful but pointless book will baffle children and barely raise a smile among adults.
And when will somebody stop Ricky Gervais in his ubiquitous quest to be everywhere and win everything? His Flanimals series would be nothing without illustrator Rob Steen, and new book Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling is no exception. The lame, confusing narrative can’t hold a candle to Steen’s superb drawings – yet Steen’s name doesn’t even appear on the cover, such is the size of Gervais’ ego these days.
Acclaimed children’s authors such as Julia Donaldson, Lauren Child and Nick Sharratt wouldn’t think of attempting stand-up comedy – and for good reason. There’s a lot to be said for sticking to what you know, and when Hill and Gervais finally stop flogging the kiddie cash cow, maybe they can get back to the serious business of making us laugh.
The Further Adventures of the Queen Mum and Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling are published by Faber on Thu 4 Oct.