Tuesday 30 August 2011

Picture Books That Changed The World

Number 1:  MASQUERADE by Kit Williams
Well, as you know, I’m a youngish chap (and good looking too, of course). I haven’t been around for too long. Infact, I’ll let you into a secret. Some of those books on my shelves are older than I am. Much older.

 But books are like that. The best ones last forever.

It’s always good to look at the new, but it’s important to get to know the old, I say. 

SO I thought I might start thrilling you with the titles of some of the very best of picture books from the past. A few timeless classics. The ones that you should make sure you see before you look at anything else. And its usually a good idea to head down to the library if you want to pick up something that’s out of print and not to be found in your local bookstore!

Just so as you can picture me, I’m seated in my favourite wing backed reading chair and perched on my satin cushion (always necessary when a classic read is about to commence)!

Masquerade was published in September of the year 1979 and took the book world by storm, selling over two million copies worldwide and making Kit Williams, it’s creator, into an overnight celebrity.

And I make no wonder. Lordy, can you imagine a book that holds the clue to REAL treasure. Study the pages carefully, work out the riddles and puzzles and discover the location to a where a golden prize is buried! That would be a bit like being a pirate without even getting up from your seat. Wowza!

That’s exactly what MASQUERADE was. The very first of its kind. And one that sparked a whole host of what became known as ‘armchair treasure hunts.’

In the book, Kit Williams used fifteen detailed paintings to tell the story of the Moon falling in love with the Sun, and how he calls on the help of the main character, Jack Hare, to deliver a fabulous jewel to his true love as a token of his affection… Switt Swoo! I do love a touch of romance.

On arriving at the sun Jack discovers he has lost the treasure, and it is left to the reader to track back through the journey within the pages and find it. All the reader knew for sure was that the Golden Hare was buried SOMEWHERE in the British Isles. Maps and compasses at the ready folks.

Now believe me, I’ve seen that Hare and he is VERY good looking…SWOON, even from a Pooch’s point of view!

The images and their painted borders hold the key clues with which to solve the puzzle, alongside some visual jokes and a few intentional decoys. Within the text are some rather amusing riddles to solve and the story itself is a fun, short, read, filled from beginning to end with weird and wonderful characters and a cheerful dialogue.

And listen to this, the hunt lasted for two years before the golden hare was unearthed below a stone cross in Ampthill, Bedfordshire in 1982. The original finder of the treasure must have been some kind of pirate if you ask me because apparently he cheated by getting information from an old girlfriend of Kit Williams. But at about the same time the puzzle was solved as intended by two teachers from Manchester!

Now just you take a look at that golden hare…Woooooo, fantastic eh?

 AND I can tell you that it was made by Kit Williams himself. What a thoroughly talented chappie indeed! What would you give for a piece of jewellery like that I wonder?

Unfortunately it’s not for sale and is now owned by a private collector but you can still get hold of a copy of the book and I’d truly recommend you do just that.

The book was republished with the full solution in 1983

If you’re really interested, a whole page-by-page solution to all the clues can be found on Dan Amrich's unofficial Kit William site at

Wednesday 10 August 2011

The Book Sniffer and Chris Mould take a trip to the Library!

By Chris Mould (and the Book Sniffer)

Well, seeing as it’s the holidays and all that, I thought I’d make a trip down to Pooch Headquarters and take the Sniffer for a summer stroll. It’s about time he got those posh paws dirty. Spends far too much time bouncing around the local bookshelves sniffing out the latest publications. So what better opportunity to pull him out of the office than an unannounced visit from the Spindlewood carriage.

I asked the Book Sniffer where he fancied taking a stroll? The park perhaps? Check out the local canine action? Or maybe the woods? Who knows what might happen there!

But no! Where did he fancy a stroll?… The library! (but only after he'd donned his deer stalker hat and grabbed his umbrella with the duck head handle.)

Off we trotted arm in arm sauntering past the local purveyor of tea cakes ‘So what’s with a walk down to the library?’ I asked him as we entered the double doors of the local word factory.

‘Don’t you know the libraries are under threat.’ He started. ‘Government cuts are forcing the library service into meltdown. The best action you can take is to head down to your library and use it.’

‘Oh hang on a minute.’ I said. 'This is just an excuse to drool over Petula the pug from the Molly Moon series isn’t it?’

Swit swoooo!

‘Not at all.’ Insisted the Sniff (although, I’m sure he was concealing a copy), ‘If libraries are not being seen to be used, they just become an easy target for closure. If they’re filled with people and communities are making use of them, it makes it harder.’

‘And you’re sure it’s nothing to do with the fact that you go weak at the knees when you see Lara from Spy Dog?’

Dashing - but not A patch on the sniffer.

‘Absolutely not!’ He insisted although I must say, he seemed slightly flushed at this point.

‘Hmmm, well I must admit, I do agree with you Sniff. I hate the idea of public services being cut. Isn’t it the case that if you take away familiar and popular meeting points for people you take away communities. Isn’t that how communities are made in the first place? That’s how I understood it?’

‘Yes, of course.’ He replied and he was now sat in one of the splendid reading chairs of the local book borrowing establishment with his nose buried in an astonishing illustration of Cerberus, the three headed hell hound of Hades from Greek Mythology.

But times are changing.’ I said. I wanted to push him a bit further. See what this was really all about. ‘If people want a book, don’t they just head to the local bookstore and pick up what they want?’

Oh you’re really trying my patience now.’ He insisted and it seemed I’d ruffled his coat a little too far. ‘Not everybody can just head to the store and buy any book they want.

What about those people who don’t have the money for books? What about the people who don’t have somewhere quiet and comfortable to read at home? What about those who don’t even have a school library anymore? Don’t they deserve the right to read?

‘Ok, I see your point. But how come you’re such an expert any way?’ I asked him. ‘After all, you’re just a posh pooch.’ (I do love to wind him up a bit).

‘I beg your pardon,’ He said, sitting up in his chair. ‘I represent the very best of publishing. The canine character is the cornerstone of any book worth its salt.'

‘Huh, I can only think of a few at the most.’ I said. ‘There is Bullseye, Bill Sykes’ dog from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Or Toto from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L.Baum.

Worse for wear?

‘Oh really, well there’s Snowy, Tintin’s terrier from Herge’s The Adventures of Tintin

Or Milou..if you are posh ...

Or there’s my good friend Kipper, as described by the trusty nib of Mick Inkpen or the ever popular Spot, by Eric Hill

or Jennie from Higglety-Pigglety Pop by the inimitable Maurice Sendak.

A fan of am dram..

Maybe try Beatrix Potter’s Ginger and Pickles and discover Pickles the terrier who kept shop with Pickles the Cat.

‘A shop. With a dog… and a cat?’ I said… ‘Really?’

But he was far too entranced now to take any notice.

‘Perhaps if you prefer to read something a little longer, there’s Scamper, the little golden spaniel who belonged to Peter and Janet in Enid Blyton’s secret seven series. Or maybe you could try Dodie Smith’s, The Hundred and One Dalmatians. There’s a few four legged characters to get to know in there too. There’s Snitter too, (sounds like Sniffer), from The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams.

Not convinced yet? Well, there’s Wellington, Mrs Shear’s dog from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon or Fang, Hagrid’s dog in the Harry Potter books. I’m even quite sure that King Lear has a couple of dogs if you want to venture into Shakespeare. Trey and Blanche I think!


Dear oh dear. I’d had quite enough by now.

‘Ok, ok, I give in.’


With an armful of library books to share Mould and Sniffer made their way back to Book Sniffer Towers (stopping briefly at the co-op to pick up a bag of Viennese whirls)  and settled down on a cushion and read and read and read. What better way to spend a rainy summer holiday afternoon!

Thanks to dawg gawn fabulous author and illustrator (and not very good joke teller) Chris Mould for stopping by with this brilliant guest post! please pop and visit his blog to see more of his work and to find out more about his intriguing new app!

AND HERE is a Step by step guide to how to draw a dog on a bike!

Proper lovely!

Chris Mould's actual dog! ...by Chris Mould.