Edwardo: The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World

by John Burmingham

New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006

30 pp.

Age: 3 +

Interests: ‘bad behavior’, manners

Also by this author: Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, Borka, Come Away from the Water Shirley , Avocado Baby

Each time he does something a little bit naughty, Edwardo is told that he is very bad and soon his behavior is awful. However when he accidentally does good things and is complimented, he becomes much, much nicer.

The book begins, “Edwardo was an ordinary boy.” An important starting-point. It is stressed throughout that Edwardo, even through his worst behavior, is just like anybody else, no better, no worse. This is a really interesting book, since it becomes clear that it’s the adults and their reaction to Edwardo’s behavior that eggs him on to be bad… and good. The grownups are the ones exaggerating and being unfair, branding Edwardo as a monster.

Sometimes Edwardo would kick things.

“You are a rough boy, Edwardo. You are always kicking things. You are the roughest boy in the whole wide world.”  Edwardo became rougher and rougher.

The complaints pile up, until a crowd of adults declare him to be “THE HORRIBLEST BOY IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.” Then, in a really amusing twist, he performs good deeds by accident, is praised highly, and so proceeds to do more nice things. The whole thing snowballs.

Edwardo does really awful things and really marvellous things. Both ends of the spectrum are easily encompassed within the personality of one lively child. A great lesson for all children – and parents too – and a big step away from simplistic black and white thinking re. ‘good children’ and ‘bad children’.

It ends –

Now, from time to time, Edwardo is a little untidy, cruel, dirty, messy, clumsy, noisy, nasty, and rude. But really Edwardo is …


The illustration and this text on the last page put a huge smile on my daughter’s face when we read it, and mine as well.

John Burmingham has won Greenaway Medals for other books (Mr. Gumpy’s Outing – 1970, Borka: The Adventures of a Goose With No Feathers – 1963) but I think this one is my favourite. A complex message given in the simplest of texts, with the simplest, yet extremely evocative, illustrations.

An excellent read for children who behave badly (which would be all children) … and their parents!


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