10 of the best children’s book quotes in history, maybe

So that statement might not be true but I’ve succeeded in avoiding the temptation to put 10 Dr Seuss quotes up.

As worthwhile as life affirming sound-bites can be, children’s literature has often ventured a little further and heavier in its observations.

This list probably works best alongside something lighter and more forgiving to humanity.

 

 

In the beginning was the word

and the word is ours;

the names of places,

the names of flowers,

the names of names.

Words are Ours, Michael Rosen

 

 

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Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything. Those buildings. These lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.

James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

 

 

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‘Another Sandwich!’ said the King.

‘There’s nothing but hay left now,’ the messenger said, peeping into the bag.

‘Hay, then,’ the king murmured in a faint whisper.

Alice was glad to see that it revived him a good deal. ‘There’s nothing like eating hay when you’re faint,’ he remarked to her, as he munched away.

‘I should think throwing cold water over you would be better,’ Alice suggested: ‘or some sal-volatile.’

‘I didn’t say there was nothing better,’ the King replied. I said there was nothing like it.’ Which Alice did not venture to deny.

Alice in Wonder Land, Lewis Carroll

 

 

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Length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”

The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S.Lewis

 

 

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I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

 

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As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K.Rowling

 

 

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The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him.

The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

 

 

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Fate is like a strange, unpopular resteraunt filled with off little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.

The Slippery Slope, Lemony Snicket

 

 

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“If you’re all so peaceful up there, how did you get such greedy and cruel ideas?”

The dragon was silent for a long time after this question. And at last he said: “It just came over me. I don’t know why. It just came over me, listening to the battling shouts and war-cries of the earth – I got excited, I want to join in.”

The Iron Man, Ted Hughes

 

 

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I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time chasing after all of us.

Peter Pan, J.M.Barrie

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger Bay Books is dedicated to looking closely at what makes children’s literature great and using this in the books we create.

 

 

 

 

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3 ways to draw like Quentin Blake (and to live a good life)

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Whether you’re teaching kids to draw, drawing for them, or for yourself, learning to draw like Quentin Blake is enjoyable, rewarding, and won’t cost you 10,000 hours.

 

 

I’m no illustrator by a long stretch.

I am however, a primary school teacher and therefore blow children’s minds on a regular basis by drawing things like stick men and apples with reasonable success.

Even with the over-inflated sense of drawing ability this gives me, I am often reminded of my limits any time I try something ambitious or realistic. It usually results in some obscure, offensive, only slightly resemblant portrait (something like those unnerving versions of Mickey Mouse you see on the sides of ice cream vans).
Now I, like most people confronted with modern art, have made the clichéd point that I could create the same result with a bucket of paint, a length of rope, and a lively cat, but the truth is that most of the time, the artists are fully able to do the impressive realism stuff, but choose not to.
Picasso for example, doesn’t generally appear as though he understands the layout of the human face but occasionally drops in a painting to remind us that he can…

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So the point is, you can’t expect to be able to make great simple art without having the depth of knowledge, commitment and skill behind it.
With that said, here’s how to create great simple art without depth of knowledge, commitment, or skill…

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In a world with more books, films, blogs, songs, games, and cat videos, than you could ever hope to experience, it is important to be selective.
All the worthwhile things you enjoy are improved by all wasteful things you avoid.
The memory of Lion King 1 is improved for never having watched Lion King 2.
The things I own are worth more for the fewer possessions I have.
And for Quentin Blake – each line he draws is all the more effective for the one’s he doesn’t.

Practically, this means going minimal with facial features.
Here are some that Quentin Blake seems to go with:

Eyes

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Dot eyes are Quentin Blake’s go-to, but eggs are expressive.

Noses

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Mouths

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Nose and mouth names also seem to make good insults if the need arises…

 

Now pick some features, then put them together.

like this:

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Also – other features like ears, eyebrows, and parts of facial outline are often unnecessary. Try to skip some out.

 

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Is this good life advice? debatably not, but you’re not really here for that.
Quentin Blake’s style is known and defined by its scrappiness, yet at the same time manages to contain feeling, humour, and information.
Drawing in a rushed way will help you get closer to Blake’s style and has the added benefit of allowing you loads of attempts without investing a lot of time in each one.

Quentin Blake has explained himself that he starts with the expression of a person, and keeps starting over until he gets this first part right.

Basically, once you have eyes, nose, and mouth/beard that you like, then you can move on to scribbling out the rest of the body…

The key here is to not labour over any sketch.

There’s always a point in drawing where it will only gets worse the more you add, that point comes pretty quick with this style.

 

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In drawing as in life, a multitude of iniquities can be covered by the presence of facial hair.
If your drawing doesn’t turn out quite right then just add on a beard…

Here’s an example:

Underwhelming sketch of woman + Mr Twit beard = generic member of ‘The Eagles’/Eurovision performer.

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Here are some facial hair options. Be scrappy. Go sparse or full, doesn’t really matter (in your drawing that is – don’t grow a patchy beard and go blaming me).

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Use the bank of features that Quentin Blake uses.

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Start with the facial expression

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Be scrappy (a messy fountain pen helps a little)

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Miss out features, you don’t need them all

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Don’t join everything up

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If you mess up, draw a big beard on it, start again.

 

Now leave a comment with your attempts you wonky witch lip sausage nose old chunky.

What did Roald Dahl learn from Hemingway?

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Apart from clearly doing some character research for The Twits, it’s not clear how Roald Dahl and Ernest Hemingway came to be together here in London, 1944.

Here, Roald is 28 and Hemingway an aged, Karl Marxian 45. Dahl had only published one children’s book called The Gremlins to mixed success in the US while Hemingway had already got The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls under his literary belt.

We can assume that Dahl sought Hemingway out while serving his post as a spy in Washington DC for the British government.
Spy is actually a generous term for what Roald was doing during WW2. His job was to attend the parties, balls, luncheons, breakfasts, hunts, and banquets of the American upper classes whilst trying to gauge when USA might be lending us a hand against NAZI Germany. He ate, wrote, gambled, and played the ‘tall and British’ card with rich American women.
Less of a Daniel Craig James Bond and more like a Bond written by Woody Allen, played by Hugh Grant.

In any case, they met, talked, boxed, and became good enough friends for Dahl to be called upon to help and distract Hemingway out of his alcoholism by Hemingway’s wife, Martha Gelhorn.

So what impact did the terse, American, at no point humorous, Hemingway have on our beloved British creator of the Roly-Poly Bird?

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Hemingway’s writing style is probably best know for its simplicity. He famously told people to ‘distrust adjectives’ like you should ‘distrust certain people’. While he wrote this down at some point, before doing so he had shared this with Dahl, who took it to heart in his own writing.

It’s a hard thing to put your finger on what makes Roald Dahl quite so good, and while it’s tempting to put it down to the crazy characters and ideas, a big part of it is not wasting words on unnecessary adjectives.

I don’t know who planted the lie into the world that adjectives make writing interesting, but they should be found and hung by a long, thick, rough, old, yellow, smelly, chafing rope.

Nouns are interesting. Things. Too many descriptive words are what makes writing sound fabricated and kind of teenage. Once you have described the basics of how something looks, you should leave it alone.

It’s like if Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, then felt the need to call it The beautiful, intriguing, ambiguous, piercing, inspiring look of Mona Lisa.
It’s unnecessary. Just let the image do the work itself.

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Unlike Hemingway, Dahl doesn’t limit himself to the adjective list of good, bad, clear, big, brown, and brave, but reading his adult and children’s books alike, there’s a similar sense of not wasting words.

Just in case your not convinced, here’s some other people who aren’t huge adjective fans:

When you catch an adjective, kill it – Mark Twain

The road to hell is paved with adjectives – Stephen King

Most adjectives are unnecessary – William Zissner

Adjectives are the greatest enemy of substance – Voltaire

Struggle against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective– George Orwell

Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something – Ezra Pound

Ouch.

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For both Hem and Roald, the tendency towards uncluttered writing goes hand in hand with a more general appreciation of simple pleasures: namely food.

I wrote my uni dissertation on Hemingway and food. While this was mainly an excuse to read lots of his books and to fantasise about eating gazpacho, I at least discovered that he really did like food and gave time in his books and his life to enjoying it.

He even wrote a couple of cooking articles including a critique on bad camping food and how to do a fine bacon wrapped trout with corn cakes.

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Hemingway could indulge his love for food whilst alone; camping, fishing, or sitting in a well-lit Spanish cafe. Instead, Roald Dahl’s food culture is based on sharing and family  (it’s hard to imagine a grown man preparing an ‘enormous crocodile spinach baguette‘ alone on the morning of a hunt).

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Sure, there’s some cross-over with these men; big into short stories, into travel, both survived African plane crashes, but actually Dahl’s similarities with Hemingway are only as important as the differences.

Dahl, being British, was not so serious, not such an idealist, and could see the comedy in our flaws. Even having such an esteemed bearded friend in Hemingway, he still ended up writing this:

Mr Twit felt that his hairiness made him look terrifically wise and grand, but in truth he was neither of these things. Mr Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.           Roald Dahl, The Twits

Dahl’s humour, his sense of eccentricity, and family.

Hemingway’s clarity, passion, and simplicity.

Both writers offer to enrich life in different ways. And for me, each is improved by having read the other.

Before reading To Have and Have Not, why not read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Before reading Fiesta, read Dirty Beasts.

What children read, have read to them, or never have a chance to read shapes the experience and expectations of life thereafter. So pick well.

Read –

Roald Dahl – The Twits

Ernest Hemingway – In Another Country (short story)

Roald Dahl – Kiss Kiss

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Cook –

enormous crocodile baguette (Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes)

bacon wrapped trout with corn cakes

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Enter –

Hemingway lookalike competition.

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Comment –

The childhood book that formed you most.

Article written by Joshua Morgan

Gobblefunk, scat, and the point of gibberish

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squitsch, gruncious, bandersnatch, trogglehumper, sneedle, brillig, gimble, once-ler, oobleck, vorpal, outgrabe, spazzim, glikker, zillow, manxome, hopscotchy, thnaders, bar-ba-loots, gyre,
and floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs.

So I’m fairly sure that I am above average in the amount of gibberish I speak.
I listen to a lot of scat music, to bands that slur their words, and increasingly just feel the compulsion to swap out real expressions for meaningless sounds.
Maybe being a teacher, and an english literature graduate, this is a backlash against all the demands in my life to be making a lot of sense to others.

That said, I’m not the one responsible for the list of nonsense above. That’s down to our friends Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, and Lewis Caroll.
Unlike myself, these guys don’t save the craziness for their home life but actually publish these words in their stories, and stories which are aimed at children in the process of soaking up all the language that comes their way.

The BFG, Through the Looking Glass, and the Lorax are just three of the books that have been incredibly successful and also contain loads of gibberish.
There’s a divide between parents who enjoy the nonsense in these books, and those who find it grating.
But is there any actual value in it except for the opportunity to make funny sounds?

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In Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice reads a nonsense poem: The Jabberwocky.
After reading it, this is what she says:

                It seems very pretty…but it’s rather hard to understand.

Child reads a poem – poem has mostly made-up words – child doesn’t get the poem.

The Jabberwocky isn’t a very long poem but it still manages to include about 25 words that don’t especially mean anything, so it’s not so surprising that Alice doesn’t completely understand.
Stephen King (and lots of other people) have described words as the tools we use to order and navigate life. Objectively, this means that Lewis Caroll just gave us 25 useless tools (a bit like the garlic crusher, or the t-shirt folder), since there’s no real situation where we can use them to any benefit.
The danger here is that in reading these nonsense words, we are missing opportunities to introduce or solidify real usable words.
Real vocabulary is important, and many parents will feel like answering questions like ‘what’s a YUZZ-a-MA-TUZZ?’, isn’t the best use of time with their child.

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Alice goes on to say:

 Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas – only I don’t exactly know what they are!   However, somebody killed something, at any rate

While Alice doesn’t completely get the poem, she uses her sense of meaning and structure of language to figure out that ‘somebody killed something’. This reveals what seems to be the main value in gibberish. Inference.
Encouraging inference usually requires asking children questions like ‘how do you know that…?’, ‘why do you think she feels that…?’.
Instead, when a word doesn’t make sense, a child is naturally forced to look at the context of the word in the sentence.

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Great! So children get loads of thinking skills through inference of nonsense words, and on top of this the people of ‘The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology’ say that inference links strongly to memory capacity too!

But… the smart people at the JECP also remind us that the ability for children to infer is also limited by the extent of their vocabulary.
Meaning that you’re not allowed to only read a child nonsense or they wont have any vocabulary to infer with.

You can see this played out whilst reading Roald Dahl. His so-called ‘Gobblefunk‘ words are combinations of two or three existing words. So if you’ve never heard ‘rotten’ or ‘gruesome’, you probably won’t get ‘rotsome’.

For the best effect of the nonsense then you should probably employ the vocabulary inference sandwich…

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So that’s the value in nonsense apart from just making funny sounds.
But also, we shouldn’t forget about the other great thing about gibberish…making funny sounds.

Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen can teach us that words can carry a lot of value and meaning.

Intentionally – through the great scat singers (‘shoo bap wee do bee do whap pow’) and unintentionally through the lyrics of general chart music (‘I can’t feel my face when I’m with you’ – yeesh), I’ve been taught that words don’t have to have any meaning at all to be enjoyed.

Appreciating the aesthetic of sound shouldn’t be underrated.
Take jazz artists Wynton Marsalis‘ Squeek, Rumble, Whomp, Whomp, Whomp.
This children’s book classifies itself as a sonic adventure.
Marsalis, as a renowned jazz trumpet player, chooses to walk us through the instruments of jazz, linking them to the array of sounds we experience in every day life.
In regards to age suitability, the book could span the primary school years quite easily. It offers a lot; from Paul Rogers’ vibrant illustration, to fun sounds evoked in the text, to understanding the combination of sounds found in the jazz genre and a wider appreciation of what we consider as music.
For anyone, a book like this, singing along to scat, or gibberish in general is a good practice in shedding inhibition. Maybe we could all do with giving a bit more time to the sound and aesthetic of words.

Some good advice that Mrs Phelps gives Matilda after she’s been reading some Hemingway:

‘Don’t worry about the bits you can’t understand. Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.’

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Read
Wynton MarselisSqueak, Rumble, Whomp, Whomp, Whomp

Gregory Christie – When Louis Armstrong taught me to scat

Roald Dahl  – BFG (of course)

Dr Seuss – The Lorax

Lewis Caroll – Through the Looking Glass (The Jaberwocky)

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Listen to –

Slim Gaillard – Yip Roc Heresy

Ella Fitzgerald –  One note samba scat

Written by Joshua Morgan