Show and Tell: Rob Biddulph's 5 favourite books for children
Published on: 09 August 2019 Author: Rob Biddulph
Author-illustrator Rob Biddulph invites us on a trip down memory lane to look at some children's books we all remember and love, as well as newer titles that are small classics in waiting.
1. How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
The first book I’d like to show you is my favourite children’s book of all time: How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. To my mind, it’s the best children’s text ever written, mainly because the rhyme is just so perfect – punchy, funny and yet faultlessly smooth. As a read-aloud story it can’t be beaten, and it really gave me something to aim at in terms of my own writing when I first started out.
2. Dogger by Shirley Hughes
Another classic, and the first book I ever remember reading. In many ways, it has defined the art of storytelling for me ever since. I know from experience how difficult it is to squeeze a complete story arc into just 28 pages, but Shirley Hughes somehow manages to take us on a journey through a huge range of emotions: happiness, excitement, worry, sadness and, ultimately, exhilaration. Rarely has the end of a story felt so satisfying. She also manages to throw in an element of misdirection (we’re really not overly thrilled when Bella wins the bear) and hide a few visual clues as to what is going to happen within her wonderfully evocative illustrations. This makes the second read of Dogger a very different experience to the first – something that is essential in a picture book that will, in all probability, be read night after night.
3. What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry
I love anything and everything by Richard Scarry. The detail in the illustrations is incredible! I could spend hours poring over them trying to find all of my favourite characters. It’s one of those books that you could read 999 times and on the thousandth read still find something you hadn’t seen before.
4. The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell
Every now and then a book will pop up that you wish you had written yourself, and The Day Louis Got Eaten is one of them. For a start, I love the title. You just have to pick it up and see what happened to Louis. Secondly, it has a really simple, but really fun premise: Louis gets eaten by a Gulper, who then gets eaten by a Grabular, who then gets eaten by an Undersnatch, who then gets eaten by a Spiney-backed Guzzler, who then gets eaten by a Sabre-toothed Yumper. It’s up to his sister Sarah to come to the rescue. There is one scene in particular, featuring both children and all of the monsters, that is an absolute delight. A real show and tell moment.
5. My Teacher Is A Monster by Peter Brown
Peter Brown is one of my favourite contemporary picture-book makers and this is a future classic, for sure. Bobby’s teacher, Miss Kirby, is a monster, at least in his mind. But when he bumps into her in the park, he sees another side of her and realises that maybe she is human after all. What I love about this book is Brown’s clever use of illustration. At the beginning, Miss Kirby looks like an actual monster – all claws and sharp teeth – but throughout the course of the story, she gradually transforms into a regular looking woman. It’s not something that is mentioned in the text at all, but it really helps to drive the story on. In the best picture books, the text and the illustrations work independently to some degree, both performing different roles in the telling of the story. This is a perfect example of how that should work.
Rob Biddulph's own picture book, Show and Tell, is out now...