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My favourite children’s (nonsense) books

A friend of mine is having a baby; a baby which will no doubt be read many, many books during its childhood as its mother is an Auditory-Verbal Therapist. I was discussing my favourite children’s books with her today (the mother, not the baby). I took in my old and fox-marked copy of The Scroobious Pip by Edward Lear. ‘Can you still get it?’ she asked me. I envisage some searching of ebay ahead.

It got me thinking about some of my favourite nonsense books. I decided to write her a list and here it is.

  • The Scroobious Pip, Edward Lear, Completed by Ogden Nash. Illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, 1968. A delightfully nonsensical tale of The Scroobious Pip and the only book I know to feature the word ‘buzztilential’ – a cracker of a word if ever I heard one.
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll, 1865. (I’m sure none of you guessed this one would be on my list!)
  • The Pobble Who Has No Toes, Edward Lear, Illustrated by Kevin W Maddison. First published in 1877, my copy is from 1978 and it’s showing it’s age with the dust jacket stickytaped back together in places. I think they should stop calling them dust jackets. Rip jacks would be far more accurate!
  • The Quangle Wangle’s Hat, Edward Lear, 1876.
  • The Jumblies, Edward Lear, 1863
  • The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits, Lewis Carroll, 1874

and just in case you thought all my favourites were written in the 19th century:

  • The Tin Forest, Helen Ward (Author) and Wayne Anderson (Illustrator), 2001. Not really nonsense but a children’s book just the same. I just love Wayne Anderson’s illustrations.
  • The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery, 1945. A true classic that continues to delightful many well into adulthood.
  • The Tale of Custard the Dragon, Ogden Nash, 1936. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger 1995. The story of Belinda and her realio, trulio but cowardly dragon called Custard. Personally I think any animal named after food has got to be good!
  • Jeepers Creepers: A monstrous ABC, Laura Leuck and David Parkins (Illustrator), 2003. A delightfully dark take on the traditional A is for Apple. Of these 26 monsters, it’s hard to pick a favourite, so I give you E through H: “Ed’s hair smells like Sauerkraut, Freddy’s two front fangs fell out, Gert wears crawdads in her ears, Hal’s head often disappears.” The illustrations are wonderfully wacky.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein, 1974
  • It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, Jack Prelutsky, 1993
  • My Dog May Be A Genius, Jack Prelutsky, 2008
  • The Sticky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, 1992. It’s odd and quirky. There’s nothing else to say on the subject.
  • Grimericks, Susan Pearson, Illustrated by Gris Grimly (of Boris and Bella fame), 1992.
  • Revolting Rhymes, Roald Dahl, 1982. No nonsense book list would be complete without a little Dahl!

What’s your favourite nonsense book?

Illustrated Wonderlands: The Beauty of Books

After a couple of lousy days, I had 30 minutes of unexpected joy, courtesy of TiVO. In its infinite wisdom, TiVO decided to record Illustrated Wonderlands: The Beauty of Books. Whoever at the BBC chose to make this short program, I thank you for a delightful experience. I even took notes! (Yes, I know I’m a little odd).

It was a double delight featuring the works of not one, but two, of my nonsense heros: Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. I wonder, whether you can get any higher in the nonsense world than the works of these two wondrous men? Actually, no, you can’t.

To start with, Edward Lear loved cats.

He wrote about pobbles with no toes, ‘people’ who went to sea in a sieve, quangle wangles and, of course, my personal favourite, the scroobious pip. Yet as much as I adore the work of the bearded man with the little round glasses, I cannot go past Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

I completely agree with The Beauty of Books assessment that while many illustrators have tried their hand at bringing Alice to life, the original fine drawings of John Tenniel are the ultimate compliment to Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece. When I reflect on it, they are right: it is the partnership of the two which makes it the treasured classic that it is.

That said, I love to see how others have interpreted Alice. I’m delighted that the BBC program mentioned Ralph Steadman‘s illustrations; certainly one of my favourites, not to mention those of Mervyn Peake of Gormenghast fame from 1946. I think both are ‘up there’ among the best Alice illustrators as each used only black and white. In my humble opinion, when a picture ‘sings’ in black and white; it’s a mighty fine picture indeed.

Ralph Steadman's Alice illustration

To my surprise, the program didn’t mention Arthur Rackham as he is one I frequently come across when looking for Alice illustrations. They did feature the work of a gentleman I had not heard of: John Lord Vernon. As the program is from 2011 it seems that he is a relatively recent Alice illustrator. As the show mentioned, he has taken the very unusual step of not including Alice in any of his illustrations. From what I saw on the TV program, I’m curious to see more of his work.

Illustration by Mervyn Peake

If I was at home, I think I’d continue this wonderful Alice indulgence by pulling some of my Alice volumes off the shelf and losing myself in the drawings and paintings of Anne Bachelier, Rodney Matthews and Iassen Ghiuselev among others. As my books are not nearby, I’ve settled for a little internet surfing for Alice illustrations instead. A bloody good way to spend a Saturday night if you ask me!

The twinings owls

It’s unanimous. Readers of the scroobious pip are in one mind; united they stand – nonsense be it! I am of course referring to my straw poll regarding what you would like to see more of on this blog. That there was only 1 vote is irrelevant. (I feel I should point out that although I’m the one wearing the ‘looking glass’ backwards watch and sitting next to a bookshelf peppered with nonsense, that it wasn’t I who voted for nonsense. I’m not sure I can vote in my own poll. So, whoever you are mystery pollster – this post is in your honor! Tiger eats his chop!
I’m sure that the world would be a better place if there were more nonsense about; a canyon of jibber jabber; a mountain range of wibble and a valley of turkey giblets. More people would go to sea in sieves, swim the English channel without a flannel, and catch the pigs and noodles which are raining from the sky. Can you imagine if Twinings ditched Nigella Lawson and went instead with Edward Lear’s Old Man of Dumbree:
who taught little owls to drink tea;
For he said, ‘To eat mice,
Is not proper or nice,’
That amiable Man of Dumbree’

And if the world were a little more splattered with nonsense then people would say what they mean and mean what they say, they would eat what they see and see what they eat, oh the places they’d go, the things that they’d do… herding cats and eating a shoe.

And to conclude, a little nonsensical poll:

Before anyone asks, no, I’ve not been eating any magic mushrooms.

Chocolate croissants and autumn leaves


At last I have taken the plunge and moved my blog. It was previously connected to my brother’s blog http://kipili.com. I did love the kipili name as it was so nonsensical however as it was an offshoot, I was reliant on said brother for any upgrades to the wordpress in the background. So I’ve branched out and become the scroobious pip.

To the right is Edward Lear and his cat foss in 1885. Foss looks a little tubby don’t you think? I doubt there was such a thing as light cat food in 1885. Perhaps Edward and foss had a breakfast as lean as mine. I spent Sunday morning strolling up Erskineville road heading for the bakery. The autumn leaves are stunning at the moment. Wine, plum, beetroot, vermillion, rust, pickle, lemon – each way I look there’s a spectrum of colour. It just makes me want to whip out the paints and explore washes of rich warm earthy tones. I think it’s something about the cool weather which makes one ooze at the sight of any warm colour. It’s like the bakery… those sweets aren’t hot but the warm buttery coloured of the portuguese egg tarts next to the smell of coffee make one feel warm! I played it safe and opted for a chocolate croissant even though the strawberry and pecan strudels looked rather spectacular. I’m glad that we don’t wander up to the bakery for lunch every Sunday morning else I’d be adding a lump the size of foss to my middle quick smart.

The two lumps in this house are outstretched on the heat mat. If anyone is considering pampering their cat with a heat mat, “the original pet-mat” attached to a timer is a hassle free option. No sticking things in microwaves and hoping you don’t overcook the heat… no need to even consider whether it’s on or off with the timer. It’s pet pampering for lazy working people and I love it.

Chalk and cheese

This blog came about thanks to my brother. While we are oft chalk and cheese, this is an example of where our quirkiness combined. He knows that I love both Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear and located a suitable Lear ‘doodle’ for my banner page of his own accord. I instantly loved it. Thank you.

but back to being chalk and cheese… (can I be epicure, port salut or a fine blue? I don’t want to be a bland processed cheese slice)… my brother possesses technical flair. I possess logic. It takes me a while to be brave enough to enter new arenas and catch on to new concepts. I am like the tortoise who gets there in the end though… So while he would have lit up the front page with fireworks by now, I’m still figuring out the categories menu. Categories, of course, I can do… because that is English! Blogroll, slugs, plugins, feeds, chomps, hyperextending cats… it’s worse than Carrollian nonsense because the words do actually mean something… just not to me!

So please be patient whilst I make friends with slugs. I know that you will, like my good friend 21st century Alice, be crying out “What is the use of a blog without pictures?” If it is all too new too quick, I’ll call chalk again and hope his patience with the crumbly cheese persists.