Book Review: The Boy in the Dress

Filed under: Books, New In Pop Culture


The Boy in the Dress is a movie-ready feel-good tale. Credit: Razorbill Books


The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Razorbill)

The title may scream button-pushing controversy and hot-topic scandal, but this uplifting, sweet-hearted, truly funny novel could not be further from tabloid territory.

In British author Walliams's lovely story, a 12-year-old middle school soccer star named Dennis, who feels like a little something is missing from his life, gets his hands on a Vogue magazine and it changes his life.

When an older teen girl named Lisa takes Dennis under her wing and schools him in the ways of high fashion, he eventually feels free enough with her to express his desire to try on some fancy gowns himself. Eventually the two decide to see if they can get away with taking Dennis to school as Lisa's exchange-student cousin, Denise.


The subject matter is treated delicately and respectfully. The words "cross-dressing" and "transvestite" never come up. Nor is Dennis portrayed as obviously gay in any way -- in fact, he appears to have a rather adorable crush on Lisa. Sexuality is simply not an issue. Of course, there is drama and realistically negative reactions as Dennis and Lisa's little scheme unravels, but it all culminates in one of the most joyous feel-good endings I've ever read in a young reader's novel. It is exceedingly rare that I ever read a book and wish Hollywood would get their hands on it, but I could easily see the very cinematic Boy in the Dress turning into a stand-up-and-cheer hit film. Get cracking, producers.

And to say one brief word about the illustrations: Quentin Blake, the man whose lively pencil added character to so many of Roald Dahl's books back in the day, can still work magic.

Related: Book Report: Penguin Classics

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