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The first story I wrote was entitled 'A day in the life of a penny.' I wrote it at the behest of my teacher; Miss Burton. I was about seven years old and at Primary School.

In those days there was no such thing as a literacy strategy - we just did reading and writing.

Story writing was called ' English Composition'.

I enjoyed doing English composition but apparently I wasn't very good at it.

Click here to see my school report.


The headmaster seemed to think that I didn't read much. He was wrong; I read a lot. But not the sort of classical children's literature that he perhaps thought children ought to read. I was an avid reader of . . . .




At school English lessons were all about spelling and punctuation, adverbs, pronouns and that sort of stuff. But from reading these comics  I learned that words could be fun, that words and pictures could be combined to make a point, or tell a joke. I still have fun playing with words & pictures. Here's an example from one of my Jets Books: 

           'Bing Bang Boogie it's a Boy Scout'            When I read what eminent writer and reviewer Jan Mark said about it I was rare chuffed. 

"This rollicking comedy with it's puns and word play teaches more about the evolution of language than any text book."

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And then there was .................PICTORIAL KNOWLEDGE

Most children's encyclopedias present facts and explanations in a way that can be easily understood, along with simple clear illustrations. The publishers of Pictorial Knowledge must have thought that children would get bored if they did that and so set about trying to make what they had to explain sound really, really interesting Everything in the Pictorial Knowledge was described as if it were an exciting adventure story.The chapters dealing with science and invention had titles such as - Television, the magic mirror' , 'Nickel the goblin metal' and 'The wonderful romance of the magnet' . Legends about Greek Gods who fought one-eyed giants were told as if they were true, as true as ''The story of a cotton sheet' or 'The Ghastly black-hole of Calcutta'. I was fascinated and confused.  I read these books in bed most every night, and In my young mind, fact and fiction merged into one.

Here's an explanation from the book dealing with science                     and a curiously alarming caption. 


In my books I can't resist the urge to make fun of experts and often include pretend factual asides and comments.

I think this is probably due to all my browsing of Pictorial Knowledge when I was a child

The illustration below is from Stanley Bagshaw and the ice cream ghost.


The illustration below is from "Stone the Crows it's a Vacuum Cleaner"

It is an accurate copy of an actual cave painting. According to the experts the caveman on the left is supposed to be armed with a bow and arrow. I think my interpretation is more plausible, don't you?

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When Miss Twigg; the class teacher in my In the Pump Street Primary books  has a problem the first thing I have her do is try to solve it by referring to her 'Really useful Book for Teachers'

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But back to 'Pictorial knowledge'.

Who do you think it was wrote the fanciful descriptions and metaphorically misleading captions ? What writer would choose to describe Nickel as a goblin metal and television as the magic mirror?


 Click here to find out

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