H E Todd, creator of Bobby Brewster ‘a nice ordinary small boy to whom magical things always seem to be happening’, died on 25 February. It was just three days after his eightieth birthday.
Like Bobby Brewster, Toddy himself was nice and ordinary … and magical things tended to happen to him when he was confronted with an audience of children. He sang to them, played a trumpet for them, and best of all told them stories – stories with a beginning, a middle and an end so simply wrought he convinced his listeners they could be storytellers too. His reward was a postbag stuffed with suggestions for more tales… all of which, if used in his next book, were scrupulously acknowledged in the introduction with a signed copy to follow. It’s estimated that in his long career as an author, which began with the first Bobby Brewster book in 1954, Toddy travelled half-a-million miles world-wide, made more than 6,000 visits to schools and libraries, and enchanted well over a million children in person as well as reaching even more through his appearances on radio and television.
In all he published 61 Bobby Brewster books. Each of them is without fuss or pretension, carefully crafted but not advertising the fact, and relies on its tone of voice and quiet inventiveness to win the attention of young readers. And that’s just what his books did – and went on doing long after much grittier entertainment had become fashionable. They still sell more than 90,000 copies annually, the last – Bobby Brewster’s Jigsaw Puzzle – issued by Hodder & Stoughton in commemoration of his eightieth birthday. The secret of their success is that kids like them, just as, with almost no exceptions, they liked Toddy. He wished them well and it showed. He’ll be greatly missed.