Thursday, 23 April 2009

I Heart David McKee

So, you all probably read Design Sponge, right? In which case, there's a good chance you saw this site, illustrated in full colour throughout featured yesterday? He's on a enviable quest to find 100 examples of beautiful illustration, do go over and have a look, all kinds of wonderful await you.

I saw there that he has Not Now, Bernard by
David McKee in his upcoming pile, which we have (it's a very forlorn tale due to dismal parenting skills), but we also have this one, I Hate My Teddy Bear (which we call I Don't Really Like My Teddy Bear because Iris is two and hate is not a concept I feel quite ready to embark on explaining or encouraging).

Anyway I digress, it was published in 1982, two years after Not Now.. and it is quite possibly the most bonkers book ever. Where to begin?

Well, there is an inexplicable recurring motif of people carrying huge hands and feet throughout the book. David McKee is really a master of detail, for example on the second page, the childrens' mothers are sitting on the sofa, one of them is weeping whilst the other is holding a letter and a photograph of a bearded man. On almost every page there are people engaged in cloak and dagger conversations, men in KGB-esque overcoats and women holding books, photographs or balls of string and much much more.

I rather love it,
it's so funny, surreal, dark and intriguing. Iris seems to like it too, today she said in a very matter-of-fact voice, 'There's a hand, there's a hand, there's a hand and there's a foot.' Well, quite.

There's (a hand, oops, sorry) skewed perspective aplenty and so much to absorb and engross you. This is a quote of his, from an interview I found, "I have always said I enjoy writing for the adult the child will be, and the child the adult still is.” Marvellous and so true!

I really can't believe Elmer is his most successful character!

Look at her mask, aiiiiiiiiii!


Jane O Sullivan said...

this is a great post nath ,I am coming back to it later ...x

Francesca said...

wonderful! 'not now bernard' is advertised in the back of isi's elmer book and i'd always wondered what it was about, i just like the title! however this book looks totally bonkers, that mask is so spooky!

going to look at the design sponge post now.

nath said...

Jane - yes, come back, it needs your full attention, I think the illustrations are right up your street.

Francesca - Not Now Bernard is an odd book, it was on the National Curriculum! Who's A Clever Baby Then is another favourite, not quite as dark and very funny indeed.

Naomi Devlin said...

I heart David McKee and his dark strangenesstoo. My personal favourites have to be the series about Melrick the Magician (The Magician and the Petnapping - especially) and of course, Mr Ben.

The beauty of his books (apart from the fantastic illustrations) is that you can whizz through them if you want or spend hours poring over each page and following the secondary stories of the other characters.

Great post.

x x x

erin@designcrisis said...

Thanks for the introduction! Can't wait to warp our little baby's mind with these ;) I'm very much looking for something other than Elmo to entertain him...

xanthe said...

we're big fans of McKee in our house. we love his detail, i agree with Naomi you can speed read from memory or spend many an hour spotting background characters and situations you hadn't noticed before. great for building little ones vocabulary, so many of my boys first words were learnt from 'who's a clever baby'. we love all the ones mentioned above but a real favourite is 'the house and the hill', even elmer makes an appearance just like in 'bernard'. lovely post nath. x.

artemis said...

Wow my childhood is all coming back to me! I think he illustrated my favourite...'War and Peas'? Brilliant! pure genius I say! Thanks for this post x

Conversation Pieces said...

Oooh, will need to check this book out... Not Now Bernard was a childhood staple of mine (and my sister's) so can't believe I haven't heard of this. Thanks so much :)

Kickcan and Conkers said...

thanks for this nath, I'll have to check this out.

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