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.