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The Boy in the Dress (novel) facts for kids

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The Boy in the Dress
Boy in the dress.jpg
First hardback edition
Author David Walliams
Illustrator Quentin Blake
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's fiction (8-12)
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
1 October 2008
Media type Print
Pages 288
ISBN 0-00-727903-5
OCLC 233262822

The Boy In The Dress is a children's book written by David Walliams and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It is the first book by Walliams, a television comedian best known for the cult BBC show Little Britain. It tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy who enjoys cross-dressing, and the reactions of his family and friends. It is aimed at readers aged eight to twelve, and is intended to teach children that cross-dressing is a healthy and acceptable hobby and not something to be ashamed of. It has been adapted into a television film and a musical.


The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Dennis and his 14-year-old brother John, whose parents divorced when Dennis was only 7. The boys remain with their father, who resorts to comfort eating after his wife leaves. Dennis is talented in football and is one of the best on his team. However, he deeply misses his mother, who left their family about five years ago, and finds comfort remembering his mother's yellow dress in an old picture. Dennis sees the same dress on the cover of a Vogue magazine and buys a copy from Raj, the local shop owner. But when Dad finds the magazine, he is furious. John teases him by calling him "Denise". At school that day, Dennis is given detention for kicking a football through a window. While in detention, he talks to a girl named Lisa James, the prettiest and most fashionable girl in the school. Lisa invites him over to her house and dresses him up in girls' clothing. The two decide to go out in public, with Dennis, in an electric blue dress, under the alter ego of "Denise", a French exchange student who speaks very little English. They go to Raj's corner shop. Raj does not recognise Dennis, believing he is "Denise". Following their success in fooling Raj, Dennis goes to school with Lisa – as "Denise".

Dennis upsets his French teacher by criticizing her French accent. At the break, Dennis kicks a football, slips, and is revealed to be a boy. Mr Hawtrey, the headmaster, expels him from the school for cross-dressing. Dad is furious and sends Dennis to his room. Darvesh, Dennis's best friend, comes over but is sent back to his home by Dad. Pushed by Darvesh, Dennis goes to an important football match on Saturday, where his entire team encourages him to play in a dress. The team wins against Maudlin Street, the rival football team. Dennis's dad attends the match, forgives Dennis and defends him from Mr Hawtrey. On an early Sunday morning, Raj informs Dennis that Mr Hawtrey's sister, Doris, buys the Telegraph now instead of him. He adds that there is "something funny about her". Lisa and Dennis go to Raj's shop and find out that Doris is actually Mr Hawtrey cross-dressing in a skirt. The two threaten that unless Dennis is readmitted to the school, they will tell everyone about Mr Hawtrey's cross-dressing habits. Mr Hawtrey agrees to reinstate Dennis.

At the end of the story, Dennis, his dad, and his brother get over the pain of the loss of Dennis's mother, Dennis and Lisa stay friends, and John starts to look out for his younger brother more.


  • Dennis Sims - A 12-year-old. He lives with his brother, John, and his dad, an overweight truck driver. Dennis has a best friend called Darvesh. He lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary town and he's different. He is a pupil at Elm Forest School. Dennis prefers wearing girl's clothes instead of boy's clothes; with the help of Lisa, he invents an alter-ego, "Denise", who is a French exchange student. He is played by Billy Kennedy in the TV movie.
  • John Sims – Dennis's 14-year-old brother who is a pupil at Elm Forest School. He is played by Oliver Barry-Brooke in the TV adaptation.
  • Lisa James – A 14-year-old. She is the prettiest girl in the school and is adored by everyone, she is a pupil at Elm Forest School. Lisa loves Vogue, fashion, dresses and shoes. She is played by Temi Orelaja in the TV version.
  • Miss Windsor – A French teacher. She is played by Jennifer Saunders in the TV movie.
  • Raj – Owner of a local newspaper-shop. He is kind and loves children. He is played by Harish Patel in the TV adaptation.
  • Mr Hawtrey (called Mr Hawthorne in the TV movie) – An extremely strict and unfair headteacher to the school. He expels Dennis for cross-dressing, but he himself cross-dresses, too. He is played by Tim McInnerny in the TV version.
  • Gareth Small – a 14-year-old boy in Lisa's class and Cherise's boyfriend. He is shown to be the captain of Dennis's football club and is a pupil at Elm Forest School. He is played by Sonny Ashbourne-Serkis in the TV Movie.
  • Mac Cribbins – a pupil at Elm Forest school who is in Lisa's class. He is very greedy and he likes Denise. He does not appear in the film adaptation.
  • Darvesh Singh – Dennis' best friend and is a Sikh, he's also in Dennis's football club and is very polite, he is a student at Elm Forest School. He is played by Aaron Chawla in the TV adaptation.
  • Jaspreet Kaur – Darvesh's mum. She is a Sikh, and she's very supportive and a bit weird. She is played by Meera Syal in the TV version.
  • Mum – Dennis and John's mother who is very beautiful. She leaves and never comes back. Her name is not mentioned in the book and in the film. In fact, there are not any pictures of her in the book. She is played by Emma Cook in the TV movie.
  • Dad (Called Peter Simms in the TV adaptation) – Dennis and John's father, whose name is not revealed in the book. He is a long-distance lorry driver, who resorts to comfort eating after his wife leaves. He is played by Steve Speirs in the TV version.


Dennis's father tells him "No more Small England, or whatever it is". French teacher Miss Windsor cuts short a school detention, hoping to get home in time to watch Neighbours, though in America this reference has been changed to The Young and the Restless. On page 104, it is mentioned that Lisa has a purple dress she'd copied from one she'd seen Kylie Minogue wear at an awards do.

Film adaptation

A television film adaptation was produced for BBC One, and aired on Boxing Day 2014 at 6:55 pm.

Filming began on 19 October 2014, according to Walliams' Official Twitter page. Casting for the episode was later announced on 21 October 2014.

Stage musical adaptation

A stage musical adaption of the book has been produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon for Christmas 2019 (with an anticipated West End transfer in 2020). The musical is adapted by Mark Ravenhill, features music and lyrics by Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams, and is directed by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran.

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