Latest Entries
Jennie
Märchen / Sendak

Jennie

What do you do after you’ve created the greatest picture book of all time? It’s a question only Maurice Sendak could answer. In between his two great triumphs – Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen he turned to his two great inspirations, the fairy tale and his dog Jennie. The resulting … Continue reading

Reginald Pepper
Classics

Reginald Pepper

Pepper and Jam is the story of two oversized cats, the aptly named Longbody and his noisy brother Tractor. They live in an end of terrace house in Swindon with their humans, the social climbing Mrs Pepper and her son Reginald, who also provides the illustrations. When Mrs Pepper plans a holiday the cats do … Continue reading

Marianne Dreams
Classics

Marianne Dreams

Marianne is a twelve year old girl confined to bed for months with a debilitating illness. Tired but restless she plunders a keepsake box handed down from her great grandmother to her mother and finds amongst the shiny trinkets a nice pencil, ‘It was one of those pencils that are simply asking to be written or drawn with.’ Continue reading

Rooftoppers
Field Trips / New Books

Rooftoppers

‘Lyra barged open the door, dragged her rickety chair to the window, flung wide the casement, and scrambled out. There was a lead-lined stone gutter a foot wide just below the window, and once she was standing in that, she turned and clambered up over the rough tiles until she stood on the topmost ridge … Continue reading

Tove Jansson’s Tales of Horror
Tove 100

Tove Jansson’s Tales of Horror

There’s a lot of horror in Tove’s work, Grokes, Hattifatteners and in the psychological short story A Tale of Horror (1962), monstrous Little My. ‘That girl… you’d never believe… I’m not going back there, not in a thousand years,” the Whomper continued savagely. “She tricked me! she told such stories! She makes people sick with her lies!’ Continue reading

Charlie et la Chocolaterie illustrated by Michel Siméon
Charlie at 50 / Roald Dahl

Charlie et la Chocolaterie illustrated by Michel Siméon

Voici Charlie. Bonjour, Charlie! Bonjour, bonjour et re-bonjour. In 1967 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in France for the first time. As I mentioned in my previous article this was nearly a full year before any British publisher thought it worthy of publication. It came with brand new illustrations by Michel Siméon the … Continue reading

Pancake Day
Festivals

Pancake Day

‘This is Pancake day,’ said the Professor, taking his four pairs of spectacles off, and getting them just as mixed up as he usually got his five pairs. ‘It is a festival that is inclined to die out, because although people like pancakes they won’t trouble to cook them. Too much trouble. Too much mess. … Continue reading

The Black Dossier – Return of the ‘Golliwogg’
Classics / Comics

The Black Dossier – Return of the ‘Golliwogg’

In 2007 Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill published The Black Dossier, the third volume in their comic book series ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen‘. Spanning an alternative 20th Century the League are a group of government agents based on characters from Victorian genre fiction. In The Black Dossier the league square up to a very unreconstructed spy called ‘Jimmy Bond’. But they’re aided by an even more controversial figure. Continue reading

Pippi’s Christmas Guests by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman
Advent Calendar / Ingrid Vang Nyman 100

Pippi’s Christmas Guests by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman

Nobody does Christmas quite like Pippi Longstocking. Last year the pigtailed pirate’s daughter put on an after christmas party that culminated in the guests climbing the tree to recover their presents. In Pippi’s Christmas Guests, taken from the second volume of comics by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman, our hero faces spending December 25th … Continue reading

Fantastic Libraries
Reading

Fantastic Libraries

‘There’s so much to see and smell here! Whole levels of the library that nobody has been into for a hundred thousand years! Locked rooms full of ancient secrets. Treasure! Knowledge! Fun‘ Garth Nix’s Lirael. When Birmingham’s new mega library opened last week I was blown away by the sheer scale and heartened by a … Continue reading

The Other Matilda
Cautionary Tales

The Other Matilda

When I was researching my piece on Matilda the other week I came across the rather delightful fact that Roald Dahl had initially intended for her to be an absolute horror. His template for the character was another Matilda, the doomed anti-heroine from one of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children. This Matilda, so the … Continue reading

The Winter Sleepwalker
Quentin Blake

The Winter Sleepwalker

I’ve been banging on about Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake for quite some time now. So I thought I’d better redress the balance and look at the work of the man who was in my opinion an equal partner in their creative relationship. Another equally important collaboration began several years before his work with Dahl. … Continue reading

Eloise
Bad Girl Warning

Eloise

Has there ever been a bad girl with a better pedigree than Eloise? Created by a Hollywood musical star and featuring a six your old free spirit who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York with her beer swilling British nanny, a trainer wearing turtle and nary a parent in sight. Eloise's life at … Continue reading

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
New Books

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Another year, another amazing book for teenagers wins the Costa Book Award. Last year we had Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, a story that screamed INSTANT CLASSIC at you in CAPITAL LETTERS. Well here we are again, with Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, a book which is possibly even more perfect. Although they’re very different books … Continue reading

Fattypuffs and Thinifers
Classics

Fattypuffs and Thinifers

Being a massive Alice and Narnia nut I’m a sucker for any book that takes me through a crack in our world and into another, much stranger place. It’s the ultimate fantasy device, playing directly into children’s imaginative games. Revisiting these stories later in life is a direct reminder of what it felt like to … Continue reading

Grimm by Gág
Märchen

Grimm by Gág

For anyone who has never quite got the Brothers Grimm, or never heard their 'Märchen' (household tales) at a young age, here’s a great description of what they've been missing. 'The dictionary definitions – tale, fable, legend – are all inadequate when I think of my little German Märchenbuch and what it held for me. … Continue reading

Here be Dragons
Classics

Here be Dragons

I’m having a big dragon-fest at work recently, which has given me a good excuse to trawl some of my favourite picture book beasties, plus some brand new ones. In the 1960s Tove Jansson, best known for creating her very own Moomin shaped folk legends, turned her hand to illustrating some British children’s classics including … Continue reading

Grimm by Hockney
Märchen

Grimm by Hockney

As Alice so wisely said, ‘what’s the point of a book without pictures?’ Not a lot I thought – particularly when it comes to something as visual as the Grimm tales. To prove the point I thought I’d have a look through some of my favourite illustrated tales from Grimm from the last hundred or so years. Continue reading

Bryan and Mary Talbot’s Dotter of her Father’s Eyes
Comics

Bryan and Mary Talbot’s Dotter of her Father’s Eyes

This graphic memoir (comic book to you and I) begins this very day, February 2nd – James Joyce’s birthday. It’s the jumping off point for a narrative that weaves the young lives of Mary Talbot and Lucia, daughter of James Joyce. The two were born generations apart, but had in common their ‘cold, mad, feery fathers’ – Mary’s dad James had been a Joycean scholar. Continue reading

Appy Christmas
Advent Calendar

Appy Christmas

I wrote a few months ago about some of the groundbreaking children's book apps that are taking the whole reading experience in wonderful new directions. A brief visit to the app store over the weekend provided some great new examples for Christmas. There are countless cheapo retellings of A Christmas Carol and The Night Before … Continue reading

High Street by Eric Ravilious
Classics

High Street by Eric Ravilious

There can’t be many children’s books that explain exactly how to get served in the pub. ‘If you want ordinary beer you ask for “bitter”. Usually there are also two kinds of ale, mild ale and old ale (which also called Burton), and you can order a mixture of any two, such as “old and mild” or “bitter and Burton”.’ Got that kids? Mine’s a Burton and Red Bull. Continue reading

Fantastic Mr Fox illustrated by Donald Chaffin
Roald Dahl / The Illustrated

Fantastic Mr Fox illustrated by Donald Chaffin

Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox is undoubtedly the best film of any of Dahl’s children’s books. But I was a bit unsure about the ending (spoiler alert). The original sees the Fox family ingeniously outwitting the waiting farmers by tunnelling into their store rooms and feasting on their supplies. Anderson takes them … Continue reading

Appily Ever After?
Reading

Appily Ever After?

I had been going to write a post about great children’s books apps. You know those beautifully crafted, interactive things where you can fiddle about with your favourite characters, get the big bad wolf to blow your carefully constructed house down, while an out of work thespian overdoes the story-telling – that sort of thing. … Continue reading

The Magic Finger illustrated by William Pène du Bois
Roald Dahl / The Illustrated

The Magic Finger illustrated by William Pène du Bois

Happy Roald Dahl day everyone! Before you stick your face in the chocolate lake in celebration, why not gorge on these pictures from the original edition of The Magic Finger. The Magic Finger was the first Dahl book I remember reading. As an introduction to his children’s books it’s slightly unrepresentative, and perhaps bears more … Continue reading

Weird Batman
Comics

Weird Batman

I’m not a big fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman films, they were just way too serious for my tastes. Heath Ledger’s amazing turn as the Joker aside, they missed what for me is the main attraction of Batman – his innate freakiness. Tim Burton got the character far better – and in fact Adam … Continue reading

Marmalade Atkins
Bad Girl Warning

Marmalade Atkins

I've always had a soft spot for incredibly rude children. In books obviously, real rude children need shutting in the garage. It's not so much the bad boys I like; Just William, Dennis the Menace, Horrid Henry et al have always had something of the bully boy about them, redeemable mainly because the softies they … Continue reading