Bernard can’t seem to get the attention of his busy parents, even when he tries to tell them there is a monster in the garden.
As a child David McKee’s story terrified me – the idea that I might get eaten by a monster (as happens to poor Bernard) and, even worse, that my parents wouldn’t even notice.
This story is often interpreted as a cautionary tale for parents – neglect your children and they will become monsters – or a very clever allegory for monstrous childish emotion, in the vein of Where The Wild Things Are.
Re-reading as an adult, I see a lot of wisdom and humour in this classic story. David McKee is a master of eerie unpredictability (he is the creator of Mr Benn, King Rollo and the iconic Elmer the patchwork elephant series). Unlike Elmer, who is cursed with standing out, Bernard struggles to be noticed.
Children will enjoy the refrain of ‘Not now, Bernard’, and will delight at the sheer absurdity of the monster, tucked up in bed in place of Bernard, utterly bewildered.
‘But I’m a monster’.
‘Not now, Bernard’, Bernard’s mother says, as she turns off the light.
Not Now, Bernard, by David McKee, published by Andersen Press, is available now.
This is a whimsical classic I remember very fondly from childhood. It’s about a house that unmoors from a quiet London street after weeks of rain, carrying Mother, Father, Granny, Morgan, Baby and Tailcat out to sea. There they encounter pirates, cannibals and Mr and Mrs Bruce…who started off on a paddle cruiser in Hull and ended up in the Pacific Ocean.
With witty prose by Pat Hutchins and lively illustrations by Laurence Hutchins there is plenty of fun to be had in each action-packed chapter, perfect for reading aloud to children. I was eight when my mother read this story to my sister and I.
We loved this story so much that we even named our cat after the fearsome pirate, One-Eyed Jake. Not that our cat had only one eye, but there was something swashbuckling about him. On rainy days when he couldn’t get outside he would sit staring at the window wondering perhaps if maybe, just maybe, today would be the day the house sailed away.
The House that Sailed Away, by Pat Hutchins, published by The Bodley Head, is available now.