Reviews /

The Funniest Boy in the World

Authored by Helen Rutter
Illustrated by Andrew Bannecker
Published by Scholastic

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The Funniest Boy in the World: The sequel to the fantastic The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh follows protagonist Billy Plimpton as he settles into life as the funny man. The success he felt at the school talent show is still ringing in his ears, and he sets his sights on delivering his comedy regularly, starting with the local comedy night. Spoiler: it doesn’t go well.

His stammer remains, but, after an understandable wobble, his desire to succeed spurs him on. After a couple of false starts, his act is noticed by legendary comedian Leo Leggett, who spots him filling in at a local festival. Leo offers to take Billy under his wing, but at what cost?

While the crux of the story is about Billy’s desire to be a comedian and not let his stammer hold him back, there are layers here. Leo Leggett’s social media presence purports him to be an all-singing, all-dancing man of the people, but Billy quickly realises this isn’t quite true. Nonetheless, Billy’s own obsession with his phone, his socials, and his likes jeopardise his friendship with Skyla, who herself is battling demons that Billy doesn’t quite understand. Billy ends up trying to please everyone and not really pleasing anyone, including himself. He knows the difference between right and wrong, but, what if he doesn’t?

On the face of it, this is a story that should be (and often is) funny, with the familiar quickfire jokes opening each chapter, but Billy’s foray into the adult world of comedy, social media and deception forces him to grow and learn quickly. It is a story that could encourage discussion around distorted realities presented by online personalities, about instant gratification that the internet can offer (and the instant sense of a lack of worth, too), and about addiction. It might also encourage children to question what is more important – looking after ourselves, or looking after those who need looking after?

Billy remains a thoughtful, grounded protagonist whose stammer does not limit him – rather, it inspires and resolves his determination. This is a worthy sequel that could stand alone, but the first book would help to make sense of some parts, such as the references to Granny Bread and why she is so important. And, if you haven’t already, reading the first book would be a treat in any case.