Tag Archives: Martin Waddell

Bears, Bears, Bears!

Bears, Bears, Bears!: Martin Waddell & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)
Bears, Bears, Bears!: Martin Waddell & Lee Wildish (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

Martin Waddell has been creating picture books for… a little while! His work covers a wide range including enormous classics like Farmer Duck and Owl Babies, and personal favourites like The Tough Princess. He is also, of course, very well-known for the Little Bear stories.

What I find particularly interesting in his work is how his writing has kept up with the changes in picture books over the years. Modern picture books involve tight wording, using as few words as possible to convey the story in conjunction with the pictures. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the early Little Bear stories were published, it was still the fashion to have large blocks of text within the picture book but the Little Bear books are beautiful examples of how text and pictures can be combined to appear more interesting.

Bears, Bears, Bears! is Martin Waddell’s latest book, illustrated by Lee Wildish, joint winner of this year’s Red House Children’s Book Award for Spooky, Spooky House. In contrast to the Little Bear stories, the text is sparse. There are 359 words in Bears, Bears, Bears! compared to 976 in Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? [I just counted them myself, so I may have missed a couple!]

I wouldn’t remove a single word from Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? any more than I’d want to add any to Bears, Bears, Bears! They are both right for the books they are.

Bears, Bears, Bears! is about a little girl called Ruby who wants to find some bears to play with. A friendly bear pops out from Bear Wood and they have great fun, but Ruby calls for more and more bears. Eventually all the fun becomes too much, and Ruby ends up with just what she needed: one good bear friend.

This is a lovely tale. “More bears mean more fun!” exclaims Ruby near the start, but more bears also mean less space for Ruby. Small children often want “More, more, more!” before becoming over-tired and overwhelmed (some adults too, for that matter!) and a book can be the best place to keep all the excitement, especially before bed time.

Ruby’s bears are a lot of fun and there are some fabulously funny moments throughout. With lots happening in the illustrations, the story is a joy to read. I adore Ruby’s bear especially, with his multi-coloured scarf. One for toddlers, pre-schoolers, and up.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Bears, Bears, Bears! by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

The Super Swooper Dinosaur by Martin Waddell & Leonie Lord

The Super Swooper Dinosaur: Martin Waddell & Leonie Lord (Orchard Books, 2012)

The Super Swooper Dinosaur: Martin Waddell & Leonie Lord (Orchard Books, 2012)

The Super Swooper Dinosaur is a ‘sequel’ to The Dirty Great Dinosaur, which we also have. I bought The Dirty Great Dinosaur because of loving Leonie Lord’s art in Whiffy Wilson and was delighted to be sent the second book in the series. The first one confuses me slightly: at the end the pet dog is shown with a toy dinosaur and I’m not sure if you’re meant to realise that the dinosaur was all in the child’s imagination or whether it was supposed to be real. A bit too deep for small children perhaps, and there seems to be no ambiguity in the sequel.

The Super Swooper Dinosaur tries to play different games with Hal, but he’s not very good at any of them because he’s too big. In the end, they do what he does best – swoop! Seeing a pterodactyl/pteranodon crying is a very silly sight, but the subtext of the story is probably on how to make playdates feel okay when they visit?

Oh, I read too much into these books sometimes! It’s a lovely story of a boy, and his dog, and his dinosaur, in an idyllic village setting with lots of outdoor space, lots of playing, and lots of fun. Great for any child who likes dinosaurs. So, about 90% of all small children then 😉

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Super Swooper Dinosaur by Hachette Childrens Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Opening Lines

I used to want to be an author. I used to read avidly, literally hundreds of books a year. And I wrote, and wrote. But this was way back in my teens and early 20’s, now I’m 36 it’s been 15 years since I wrote regularly and over 10 years since I wrote anything at all. But inspired by the Children’s Writer blog and behind-the-scenes writing comments from (too many to mention) picture book authors and illustrators on Twitter, I thought I might revisit a story that’s been in my head all that time and write it for my girls…

My aspirations to be an author have faded over time, and I don’t have the patience to really write at this stage in my life but I thought I could manage a short story just for my girls. I hoped to be able to pull the threads of my ideas together, put the words in some sort of order and sort out the ending so it worked. Ideas are easy, writing is the hard part!

With that in mind, I started to think of the opening sentence(s). Perhaps just writing the story down first would be the best idea, but it’s been in my head for so long I thought I’d start at the beginning. Fiction Fridays have taught me that the first sentence can really sell a book to the reader. The story is a non-traditional fairy tale, so I looked for inspiration:

“Once upon a time there lived a King and a Queen who weren’t very good at it.” The Tough Princess (Waddell & Benson)

“Once there was a Dragon who was convinced he was TOTALLY TERRIFYING.” The Totally Terrifying Three (Oram & Melling)

“Once upon a Tuesday the king was in a hurry as usual.” The Kiss That Missed (Melling)

“Once upon a time, there was a deep, dark forest, where monstrous trees groaned, terrible beasties moaned and wiggly woos waited to tickle your toes.” Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure (Stephenson)

“The trouble with Dragons is… Dragons make Dragons and they make some more till there are wall-to-wall Dragons making Dragons galore.” The Trouble With Dragons (Gliori)

“Long, and long ago, when Oberon was king of the fairies, there reigned over the fair country of Phantasmorania a monarch who had six beautiful daughters.” The Ordinary Princess (Kaye)

The Ordinary Princess isn’t a picture book. It is however a perfect fairy tale. I think it’s the book I want to write. Except it was already written over 30 years ago! It definitely deserves its own post.

After looking at the inspiration, I thought about the opening lines for “my” story. Hmmm, maybe I’ll think about writing again in another ten years… 🙂

Fiction Fridays #10: The Tough Princess

FF#10
The Tough Princess: Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson (1986)

Once upon a time there lived a King and a Queen who weren’t very good at it.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
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Extra Info:
I found this book in a charity shop and fell in love with it instantly after a quick flick through. It’s an alternate fairytale by the team who created Owl Babies. Princess Rosamund is not what her parents expected. She’s a girl for a start. She also absolutely refuses to follow fairytale conventions, have a spell cast on her and be rescued by a prince. Off she goes to slay dragons and rescue princes, but none of them are good enough until… Well, you’ll just have to read the book!

I’m quite happy to read this to my two young daughters, but some people might prefer to leave it for older primary aged children – there is a lot of biffing and bashing, but sensible children (and most of them are) will understand this is a story. I think it’s fantastic, and is just the kind of fairytale I want my girls to have: “I’m not going to marry a ninny!” says Rosamund. Good for her.

I also have an extra soft spot for this book because Destructo-Girl’s real name is Rosamund, and it’s always nice to read a book with your name in it – although apparently not at two and a half: “Not Rosamund!” 😆