Jonathan Meres marvels at the impact of a picture book classic.
My first two published books, were picture books. The next thirty-odd, weren’t. I’d like to write another, one day. But it’s not nearly as easy as some people might think. When you’re writing a longer book of say, thirty thousand words, you can go off on the odd tangent, or detour. But with a picture book, you have just five hundred words or so, to tell an entire story. Every single one of them has to count. Because with any luck, that book will be read over and over again. Not only by children, but by grown-ups reading to children. Each word will be learned off by heart. Woe betide the grown-up who gets one wrong, or tries to skip to the end, hoping the child has fallen asleep. And for that reason, the book I wish I’d written, is any of the wonderful picture books I read to my own children when they were little. We had so many favourites. But if I had to pick just one, it would have to be Farmer Duck, by Martin Waddell, gorgeously illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. ‘“How goes the work?” called the farmer. The duck answered, “Quack!”’ Brilliant. George Orwell eat your heart out.
Jonathan Meres’s new book, Mint Choc Chip at the Market Cafe (978-1-7811-2756-8) is published by Barrington Stoke, £6.99 pbk.
Farmer Duck (978-1-4063-6573-3) by Martin Waddell, illus Helen Oxenbury is published by Walker Books, £6.99.