Mr and Mrs Bold are just like you and me: they live in a nice house (in Teddington), they have jobs and they love to have a bit of a giggle. One slight difference: they’re hyenas. Yes, that’s right – they’re covered in fur, have tails tucked into their trousers, and they really, really like to laugh. – from Andersen Press’s website
Received as a Christmas present and whizzed through in just one sitting, The Bolds written by Julian Clary and illustrated by David Roberts, was an absolutely glorious read.
Little did I know it at the start of the book but this was actually a pretty apposite read for this time of year too – Mr Bold makes his living writing the jokes that go into Christmas crackers!
As you’d expect, therefore, the book is packed with laugh out loud one liners but underlying all the humour the book also touches on some pretty big themes. This is a book about fitting in and about tolerance and acceptance – both of yourself (what does it mean to have have to hide who you really are in order to fit in) and from others (how do others perceive us and how much do they really see?). In donning the recently deceased Fred and Amelia Bold’s clothes and beginning a new life in England, the hyenas Spot and Sue become emblematic of that Atticus Finch old chestnut -that idea of walking around inside someone’s skin to better understand them and the reasons they behave the way they do.
Add to this the fact that Mr and Mrs Bold are basically first generation immigrants and their reminiscences about the ‘Old Country’ and their worry that the children are forgetting their ‘hyena roots’ has an additional poignancy.
“Yes, I do miss it and I wish the kids could experience it sometimes. I’m all for them using a knife and fork when we are out to blend in with the human’s funny ways. But we don’t need to use them at home, do we? What’s the point of cutlery and plates? They should be able to be hyenas sometimes – in the privacy of our own home, surely? I’d like to see them tearing at their meat, scavenging in bins and running around the garden with their tails and bottoms out in the fresh air – all the things that we did when we were growing up” – Mr Bold p.88-89
If that all sounds a bit too deep and meaningful, rest assured that this is first and foremost a heartwarming and gloriously funny book. Embellished throughout by David Robert’s wonderful illustrations, I honestly don’t know what I was looking forward to more as I turned each page – reading what happened next or seeing the next depiction of it. I absolutely adored the twee suburbia of David Robert’s Teddington (I totally want to live in that house – and oh that toilet roll cover doll!). The illustrations are generous with almost every double page bearing its own illustration. The creative layouts (I particularly loved that the nighttime sequences were printed as white on black) and quirky fonts also combine to make this a thoroughly entertaining read for emerging readers and grownups alike!
I finished the book wanting to know more about the Bolds and their life in suburbia – in fact the conversational tone of the book made it feel a little like saying a fond farewell to old friends – so I was delighted that a quick recce of Andersen Press’s website turned up this little nugget of information: The Bolds To The Rescue due for release in March 2016 (*preorders as I type*).
If you want to get more of a feel for the book I’d suggest taking a look at the clips from the BBc’s Authors Live feature recorded at this year’s Edinburgh Festivals.