Historically, trickster characters have stood in for our dark sides; they have also represented those brilliant fringe elements of society who often bring about change while making everybody nervous. A number of legends around the world involve characters such as Raven and Coyote stealing fire from the gods, or Anansi stealing stories from the gods—then passing these gifts on to humans. While Prometheus is a tamer figure from Greek mythology, the fact remains that tricksters are essentially risk-takers, and once in a while their risks pay off.
Simon not only has a great sense of how to pace a scene, but she has a way of using Henry's constant machinations with satisfying irony. For example, when Henry's parents agree to have Moody Margaret stay at their house while her parents are out of town, Henry makes a big stink and his parents reprimand him, telling him to be polite. But it soon becomes clear to the entire family that Margaret is a terrible guest. When Henry pulls one of his tricks to get Margaret to leave, his parents are secretly relieved. Henry is unaware of their feelings—he's just trying to get rid of the girl. For their part, readers will laugh at this second layer of storytelling.
Margaret had eye patches and skulls and crossbones and plumed hats and cutlasses and sabers and snickersnees.
Henry had a stick.
That was why Henry played with Margaret....
"I won't play if I can't be Hook," said Horrid Henry.
Margaret thought for a moment. "We can both be Captain Hook," she said.
"But we only have one hook," said Henry.
Which I haven't played with yet," said Peter.
"BE QUIET, prisoner!" shouted Margaret. "Mr. Smee, take him to jail."
"No," said Henry.
"You will get your reward, Mr. Smee," said Margaret, waving her hook.
Mr. Smee dragged the prisoner to jail.
"If you're very quiet, prisoner, then you will be freed and you can be a pirate, too," said Captain Hook.
"Now give me the hook," said Mr. Smee.
The Captain reluctantly handed it over.
"Now I'm Captain Hook and you're Mr. Smee," Henry shouted. "I order everyone to walk the plank!"
"I'm sick of playing pirates," said Margaret. "Let's play something else."
In Book One, our little anti-hero stomps through his dance class while everyone else is twirling delightfully. In fact, Horrid Henry stomps through most of these stories, managing to destroy a camping trip, a wedding, and dinner out at a restaurant, among other events. He plays a diabolical trick on his brother using a time machine (another homage to Waterson?), but Perfect Peter gets him back by concocting public evidence that Henry has a crush on Margaret. (One of Peter's few successes against his big brother.) In Book Two, I especially enjoyed Henry's frantic efforts to trick the "Tooth Fairy," who at one point leaves him a note reading: "Nice try Henry." The title story from Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb is another standout, focusing on how Henry's boys' club plots against Margaret's girls' club and vice versa. To add to the humor, each ringleader is assisted by a traitor as Simon plays with ideas such as the speed at which children quarrel and make up.
Tony Ross's illustrations put the finishing touch on this series. There's a little Quentin Blake in the artwork, evoking Roald Dahl's books. Mostly, though, Henry and friends are Ross's own small masterpieces of childhood crankiness and prankiness.
Note for Worried Parents: In case it's not completely clear from the post, Henry is not a good role model! However, his devious efforts often backfire.