ABOUT ME Page 2.

The first story I can remember writing was entitled - ' A day in the life of a penny.' I was about seven years old and at Primary School.
There was no such thing as a literacy strategy in those days - we just did reading and writing. Story writing was called ' English Composition' - and it seems I wasn't very good at it.
When children's authors are asked what they read when they were a child, and which books inspired them to become a writer or influenced them in some way, they're expected to name a 'children's classic' like 'Treasure Island' or 'Wind in the willows' - and usually do
But with me it was 'The Beano' and a 26 volume set of encyclopedias called 'Newnes Pictorial knowledge'. Neither made me want to become a writer but I enjoyed the puns and word jokes in the Beano, and The Pictorial knowledge - well, that was just weird

The aim of an encyclopedia should be to explain; to present the facts in a way that they can be easily understood, along with simple clear illustrations. The publishers of Pictorial Knowledge must have thought that children would get bored if they did that and set about trying to make what they had to explain sound really really interesting
Everything, and Imean everything, in the Pictorial Knowledge was described as if it were an exciting adventure story.

The chapters dealing with science and invention had titles such as - Television, the magic mirror' , 'Nickel the goblin metal' and 'The wonderful romance of the magnet' . Legends about Greek Gods who fought one-eyed giants were told as if they were true, as true as- 'The story of a cotton sheet' or 'The Ghastly black-hole of Calcutta'. In my seven year old mind fact and fiction merged. I was fascinated and utterly confused. I think you would have been too.

You don't think so?
Okay then, try this.....

Here are some pictures from 'PICTORIAL KNOWLEDGE' (They'll be blank to begin with)

Read the caption. Have a think about what it might be referring to.
Then double-click in the blank space to find out if you're right.


As a boy I was both confused and fascinated these books. I think you can now probably understand why.

What is perhaps less obvious is how they influenced me

but did they have any lasting influence?
Well, Yes. I guess they must have

The evidence of it is in my books - where I poke fun at experts and expert advice, and to suggest that things are not necessarily what they appear to be nor what we're told they are.
Here are three examples of what I mean. (Clicking a picture will enlarge it).

But back to 'Pictorial knowledge' and one last question.
Who do you think it was wrote these fanciful descriptions and metaphorically misleading captions ? What writer would choose to describe Nickel as a goblin metal and television as the magic mirror?