Thursday, October 31, 2013

A spooky Halloween Re-Review of "Not Now, Bernard" by David McKee (Andersen Children's Books)


Not Now, Bernard
(Halloween Re-review!)

Written and Illustrated by
David McKee

Published by Andersen Children's Books

Way back in the days of yore, when this blog was just finding its feet in the world of children's books, we visited the library and picked up a book that would become a regular on this blog. Not only that, it's a book that I'm overjoyed to see so many other booky folk mention whenever they're put on the spot and have to come up with their "Top Ten Favourite / Most Influential Children's Books".

So as it's Halloween we thought we'd revisit David McKee's utterly brilliant, irreverent and monstrously good "Not Now, Bernard". Does it still tickle us the way it did back in 2010? Does it ever!

For Charlotte, "Not Now, Bernard" has to be treated with huge respect, and is subject to a set of 'read aloud' rules which I'm not allowed to deviate from in any way. I have to get the pace right. I have to express Bernard's effervescent and innocent naivety just right, I have to add just the right amount of parental exasperation for Bernard's mum and dad, and I absolutely have to get the monster right or I'll be in serious trouble! It's a tough gig!

"YOU'RE NOT READING IT RIGHT, DADDY!" is what I get if I dare deviate - or worse still, if I try to read it flatly as I do with some other books - just the normal "Daddy" voice and tone.

Bernard's mum. Vase (and wardrobe) malfunction!
The story of young Bernard, who tries to warn his parents that there's a monster living in the garden that wants to eat him - and what happens when the monster does just that - is an absolute classic. You can read between the lines and spot the cleverness of its message a mile off. Or you can actually take it at face value, and it STILL works beautifully. Bernard's parents ignore his pleas, and so the monster does exactly what it says it's going to - turning Bernard into a tasty snack. NOM!

Bernard's dad - In the wars as usual! Owch!
The monster then goes into the house - and finds that Bernard's parents still ignore everything he does. Even when it's really really naughty (like taking a chunk out of Bernard's dad's leg!)

If you're reading this, the chances are that I'm probably preaching to the converted, and you know and love the book as much as we do. Monster books have been staple fodder for us on the blog since we began but seldom few monstery books quite have the impact, the comedy, and the satisfying read-aloud feeling that you get when it works well and trips off the tongue.

David McKee is a huge talent, and I've loved his stories and TV adaptations since I was a kid. "Not Now, Bernard" was a joyous discovery and it's still a book we just can't get enough of. If you're looking for the perfect monster book for Halloween, this is what you should be picking up.
(Not Now, Daddy!)


Charlotte's best bit: Oddly, she now loves the bits where poor Bernard's dad ends up with horrific DIY and monster-inflicted injuries (and wears the bandages to prove it). Things like that should worry me, shouldn't they. 

Daddy's Favourite bit: Despite Charlotte's fairly rigid rules on how this book should be read, it's an utter joy to do so. The squeaky matter-of-fact voice I give Bernard, the exasperated sigh I give his mum and the slightly grumpy voice I give his dad - and the gurgling grunting monster voice that the monster gets, add to making this a book that I genuinely look forward to reading again and again and doubly so because it's one that Charlotte never turns down when I pull it out of the book stack. Wonderful stuff! If you do not already own it, get it!

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