Our family history with Chris Riddell is a long one. It all started with The Bear Dance, a book we read over and over and over again, while I drooled at the illustrations. Muddle Earth, a collaboration with author Paul Stewart, followed: an absurd romp through an alternate universe, with such memorable characters as Quentin the cake decorator and and Dr Cuddles, the evil character, a deranged teddy bear. All this madness and mayhem tickled the funny bone of my daughter who became staunch fan.
She then moved on to the Edge Chronicles, also by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.
For my part, the love affair was with the whole package, but especially the illustrations. Every absurd character is finely drawn. Fat dragons with tiny wings, Bandabears, sky pirates and wood trolls romp through the pages of these books.
I recently took a stroll through the children’s section of a bookstore ( it’s a secret vice of mine) and discovered his latest book: Goth Girl. What a treasure. The writing is, as usual, entertaining and the book itself is a work of art. Shiny purple edged pages, brilliant illustrations and the added bonus of a mini semi-graphic novel hidden in the back.
As an adult reading this book, it’s like a treasure hunt for historical, mythological, literary and popular culture references. Here are just a few (click on the link if you need the answer):
- A landscape gardener called Metaphorical Smith
- Former Governesses: Morag Macbee who had a single tooth and a large wart on the end of her nose; Hebe Poppins, who walked like a penguin, burst into song and ran away with a chimney sweep; Jane Ear, who was more interested in the heroine’s widowed father and tried to burn down the West Wing; Nannie Darling, a sheepdog and more…
- Mary Shellfish, a lady novelist
- The housekeeper, Mrs Beat ’em
- Charles Cabbage an inventor, who is building a calculating machine
- Fabercrombie & Itch – intellectual weavers of West London
I will stop there – they are too numerous to list and I don’t want to give them all away. Just have a close look at the drawings of Mrs Beat’em and the mini graphic novel above and see what you can spot.
Christmas ideas: any Chris Riddell book
Picture books: The Bear Dance, Wendel’s workshop, the Emperor of Absurdia (and more)
Older readers: Ottoline and the yellow cat; Ottoline at Sea, Goth girl
Collaborations with Paul Stewart:
- Far Flung Adventures
- Barnaby Grimes
- The Edge Chronicles
- Muddle Earth
- Muddle Earth too (new)
Holiday fun: Go to Riddell’s website here and have a good explore, and DEFINITELY go to the links page and explore all the other websites. Hours and hours Riddelled with fun!
p.s. I am absurdly proud that Chris is actually a South African by birth, even though his family left here when he was a year old. We breed talent here, I tell you!