The Midnight Gang

illus. by Tony Ross. 480p. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062561060.
Gr 3–6—The Lord Funt Hospital in London is a rambling building with a rather odd staff. Twelve-year-old Tom Charper finds this out when the admitting doctor poses 192 questions before treating Tom's bump on the head. Tom soon joins the Children's Ward on the 44th floor where he meets Amber, Robin, George, and Sally. The children—except for Sally who is gravely ill—escape the horrible Matron each night at midnight. The children pretend to visit the North Pole, fly, and enact other grandiose plans with the help of the caring porter. Tom's desire to participate disrupts his friendship with Sally who asks Tom to include her. The Midnight Gang's final dream is tragic and boisterously youthful. Ross's numerous black-and-white illustrations mirror Walliams's lawless, uncontained revelry. The author creates a surreal world in which adults are remote and children set the stage with their wildest imaginings. The giant hospital makes for a contained yet boundless setting where children find the supplies to fuel their dreams. Take-charge Amber directs events from her wheelchair and conniving George uses drugged sweets on the Matron. The dark cloud of Sally's prognosis cannot be ignored, yet Walliams portrays it as one element in the glorious fabric of childhood.
VERDICT Irreverent as Roald Dahl, Walliams is a unique author who's created a memorable world and cast of characters.

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