Reading Terry Pratchett’s 2008 novel, Guards! Guards! over recent evenings, there have been moments when I have laughed out loud. The demise of Lupin Wonse, the man responsible for bringing terror and death to the city of Ankh-Morpork through summoning a dragon, is a moment of dry humour. Captain Vimes of the city guard orders one of his men to arrest Wonse, to apply the full force of the law. Constable Carrot takes the order literally:
“That’s it, then,” he said, and turned away. “Throw the book at him, Carrot.”
Vimes remembered too late.
Dwarfs have trouble with metaphors.
They also have very good aim.
The Laws and Ordinances of Ankh and Morpork caught the secretary on the forehead. He blinked, staggered, and stepped backwards.
It was the longest step he ever took. For one thing, it lasted the rest of his life. After several seconds they heard him hit, five storeys below.
After several more seconds, their faces appeared over the edge of the ravaged floor.
“What a way to go,” said Sergeant Colon.
“That’s a fact,” said Nobby, reaching up to his ear for a dog-end.
“Killed by a wossname. A metaphor.”
Spotting the book in the school library on Wednesday, I picked it up and noticed it had an Accelerated Reader score of 5.4. Accelerated Reader is marketed as “a powerful tool for monitoring and managing independent reading practice while promoting reading for pleasure,” it is used by the school to encourage reading by the students.
Scanning the shelves for higher scores, I saw Johanna Spyri’s Nineteenth Century classic Heidi, it had a score of 8.2. Picking up Heidi and thinking about the laughter I had enjoyed reading Guards! Guards!, I thought the difference in the scores was perhaps not unreasonable. I wondered what scores Charles Dickens would have achieved. (I later checked – Nicholas Nickleby has a score of 11.9).
Perhaps Terry Pratchett was not a writer of children’s classics, he would certainly never have pretended to be a Dickens, but at a score of 5.4 Guards! Guards! is on a par with Enid Blyton’s Summer Term at St Clare’s and half a point below Third Form at Saint Clare’s. A search through the other Accelerated Reader scores for the other Discworld stories puts them at between 5.00 and 7.00. But would the young readers whose imagination was caught by tales from a girls’ boarding school have as easily adapted to the tales from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld?
Perhaps the upside of Terry Pratchett being scored on a par with Enid Blyton is that it might encourage another generation of readers to enter the world of Ankh-Morpork.