How far would you go to get a laugh?
Something I Said by Ben Bailey Smith, Bloomsbury
Carmichael Taylor, “Car” to his friends, is a quick-witted and clever thirteen-year-old with a talent for wordplay and comedy. Instead of being lauded for his skills, however, they usually land him in trouble. When Car gets a shot at global stardom, can he sell out his family and friends for the promise of fame? Or will he realise that while mocking those around him might garner laughs and likes from strangers, he may not like himself as a result?
This is a fantastic, funny read with important themes that will resonate with children: feeling misunderstood and unappreciated, and not being “the favourite” in the family. We can all relate to the terrible sense of impending doom when parents or teachers are annoyed. Sibling rivalry and frowned-upon friendships also feature. Car rails against the injustice of being forced to study subjects for which he has no interest or aptitude, and I’m with him on this. I still haven’t recovered from the trauma of compulsory team sports and business studies being inflicted on me when I was a teenager!
Narrated in the first person, Something I Said sparkles with humorous observations and Car’s amusing perspective on life. I love how it explores the exploitative nature of television and showbusiness, especially where child stars are concerned. It’s brilliant how Car’s adventure subtly demonstrates that fame is superficial and not worth sacrificing significant relationships for. This story shows that unless we stay true to ourselves, we’ll never be proud of our accomplishments, no matter how impressive they seem on the surface.
Ben Bailey Smith is also the author of hilarious picture books I am Bear and Bear Moves. I was delighted to discover he is now writing for older children too. Something I Said is incredibly entertaining but also a moving, memorable and heartfelt story. There’s lots to learn, not just from Car’s journey of self-discovery, but with the etymology of many words also explained and explored. I was thrilled to see The Strand Bookshop make an appearance (it’s one of the highlights of my own nerdy tour of New York). This wonderful book promotes reading, language and creativity, and teaches children to value and cultivate their skills, even if their greatest strength is their ability to laugh.
About the author: Ben Bailey Smith began his career as the rapper Doc Brown before diversifying and moving into mainstream television and film acting, stand-up comedy, screen writing and children's books. He has a host of notable performances under his belt including roles in Des, David Brent: Life on the Road, Law & Order and Miranda, as well as the children's TV show, 4 O'Clock Club.
A huge thank you to the lovely people in Bloomsbury for sending me a gift of this book in advance of publication – all opinions expressed are my own.