HarperCollins has defended David Walliams after food writer Jack Monroe claimed his children's books were “sneering classist fatshaming grim nonsense”.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Monroe said her son had just finished reading Walliams' books and so she had picked up the latest and concluded it was “like 'Little Britain' for kids”, referring to the comedian's sketch show which has been pulled from streaming services because it featured Walliams and comedy partner Matt Lucas in blackface. Walliams has since apologised.
Among the examples Monroe picked out in The World's Worst Parents (HarperCollins Children's Books) was Supermum who “is BORING because she lives in a TOWER BLOCK and she CLEANS TOILETS.” Monroe said: “ I'm not sure what qualifies her as being one of the World's Worst Parents when all she does is love her kids and make them laugh?”
She said laughing at poor people was “a recurring theme” and claimed Walliams had made the working class “bland stereotypes in his lazy books”.
Monroe also said the word "fat" was regularly used as a “derogatory description” throughout his work, including naming specific weights he deemed worthy of the term.
She went on: “There's the black female teacher, Miss Tutelage, whose 'big frizzy hair' is a punchline. As is the school bully calling her 'Archbishop Desmond Tutu'.” According to the publisher, Miss Tutelage is a white character, although Monroe tweeted an illustration questioning that claim.
Monroe said: “I'm aware I probably come across as a joyless harpy, but a white wealthy man using working class and black women as punchlines for his tired old jokes and then spoon-feeding them to children is grim.”
Her comments were widely picked up on social media, with many Twitter users adding their own opinions.
A spokesman for HarperCollins said: "David Walliams’ books have a diverse readership which is reflected in their content. He writes about the real worlds of children using comedy as a way of confronting many difficult topics, from the ground-breaking The Boy in the Dress to Gangsta Granny, and which should be considered in the wider context of the overall stories. In his World’s Worst … series he writes cautionary tales using surreal humour to champion underdogs, deflate the pompous and denounce bullies. David Walliams’ books have transformed countless non-readers into book lovers and got families reading together."