It all started here …

When I was seven, I wrote the book in this picture: Mr Men Go On a Picnic. I don’t recall being especially fond of Mr Men books so I’m pretty sure that I chose the Mr Men theme because – let’s face it – Mr Men are easy to draw; they’re just brightly coloured shapes. I’m certainly not an artist but I wanted to write a book and, at that time, I thought most books came with pictures, so Mr Men it was.

I love the last line on the page in the next picture: Poor Mr Jelly. It’s the kind of thing Roger Hargreaves would have written in one of his Mr Men books and I’m kind of impressed that, even at age seven, I was unconsciously studying the style and tone of different authors.

I don’t think the book is a marvellous creation and I’m sure that many seven year olds could do better but, ever since my mother cleaned out her cupboards and passed it on to me, my kids have kept it on their bookshelf. They actually get it out sometimes for me to read to them, like it’s a proper book from the library.

My mum kept many other things that I wrote, including a poem called season which I wrote when I was nine. In one of the verses I have these lines:

In the morning when I wake

I listen to the birds.

Their songs are very pretty

And sometimes quite absurd.

I remember being so proud of that word, absurd. It felt like such a grown up word to be using because it was not a word I’d uttered a great deal as a nine year old.

Anyway, I pulled out all these treasures because I gave a talk at the State Library of WA last week and children’s book author and illustrator James Foley was another speaker and he showed, in his presentation, many similar kinds of books that he’d made when he was young.

It got me thinking – do all kids write books when they’re little? Or just the kids who end up being authors? Share your thoughts, please. Did you write books when you were young? Can you remember any of them? Do you – or does your Mum – still have a copy?

8 comments

  1. How lovely that your mum kept these beautiful memories. I think you were a very clever seven year old! I remember making magazines… Thank you for your inspiration as I will certainly be keeping my children’s book creations!

    • It’s probably the only time in my life where I’ve been glad that my mum keeps absolutely everything and never throws anything away. So definitely keep your kids’ books – they’ll thank you when they’re famous!

  2. Oh dear, poor Mr Jelly!! A friend and I were just lamenting on the weekend how surprisingly uninteresting (and not terribly well-written) Mr Men books turn out to be when you have to read them to your children – I’m pretty sure I loved them as a child!

    As for creating books like this, I definitely did (and still have some), so I’m hoping that your “just the kids who end up being authors” possibility turns out to be true and I will get there some day!

    • Agree. It’s very hard as an adult to see the charm in the Mr Men books but they still sell so well there must be some charm in there somewhere. And you’ll definitely get there some day … and soon!

  3. marlish glorie

    Thanks for sharing your Mr Men Go on a Picnic Book. It’s absolutely wonderful Natasha! I never wrote or read when I was young. C

    oming from a dirt poor uneducated migrant family there was never the resources. No paper, no books, except for the Bible. But us kids, of which there were many were always pretending. I seemed to be biggest pretender of the lot. Making up stories, creating plays. That sense of pretending never left me…I guess in one sense that’s what writers do ….create pretend worlds.

    • You’re right Marlish and I’m always grateful that my children seem to love to play pretend and use their imaginations all the time – sometimes I even have to admire the stories they come up with even when I know they are actually lying!

  4. Glen Hunting

    I don’t know what happened to all the stories and ‘books’ when I was in primary school. The very first one was when I was five or six. It was called “The Farmer That Loses His Cow,” and involved a renegade, runaway cow named June (how quaint) who precipitates a mad cross-country pursuit at highly improbable speeds. I can’t remember the exact figures, but they were on the order of hundreds of miles per hour!

    I did it in one of those exercise books that had lined pages on one side and blank pages for pictures on the other. I came to treasure blank exercise books; they were the empty canvases, so to speak. I was very deliberate about putting ‘Story and Pictures by Glen Hunting’ on the front cover. I’d seen similar words on the covers of books in the library. I think I wanted to be that person who put in the things that were on the inside of the book, the person who was in charge of it all.

    I’m going to ask my own mother if she knows what happened to any of those things, not that I really think she would know. But I would dearly love to see some of them again.

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