The premise of the three stories in this anarchic collection is what it would be like if your parents, bringing up future pillagers, wanted you to be awful, so they celebrated your noise and violence and deplored such disturbing traits in other children (the simpering Elsa Gold-Hair) as wanting to share. (The twins, though, are still expected to help with chores.) The boastful Hack and Whack and their friends cannot live up to their own braggadocio, and the stories have unexpected punchlines.
I’m all for fictional representations of “bad” children — My Naughty Little Sister, Veruca Salt, Draco Malfoy — but do they have to be so mindless and inane with no curve of moral understanding? I imagine fans of Henry will sign up for more thumpy mayhem. Simon knows the formula well by now and writes clearly for younger readers who thrive on rhythm and repetition, but this hack couldn’t hack it.