It’s 30 years since we first met Kipper, Mick Inkpen’s lovable puppy who is learning about the world alongside his readers.
The Blue Balloon came out in 1989 and the imaginative and interactive picture book about the simple childhood pleasures of playing with a balloon captured the hearts of children and parents.
There have been dozens of books for preschoolers starring the curious character since then, and even a TV series, while Mick has also created the bestselling Wibbly Pig series.
I’m a bit too old to have read Kipper as a child but Baby Bookworm is a huge fan of The Blue Balloon, which sees the boy and Kipper get up to all sorts of exciting things with the mysterious balloon they find – stretching it, popping it, whacking it with a stick and even flying up to the moon!
Of course, they are back in time for tea and what’s gorgeous about this story is the mixture of adventure and simplicity. The story embraces the idea of playfulness and fun inherent in childhood, and the fold-out pages and pull outs are extremely clever.
To mark the 30th anniversary and the release of a special edition of the book, we asked Mick to share the books, authors and characters which he loves. Here are his choices…
FAVOURITE CLASSIC CHILDREN’S BOOK
I’m not entirely sure how old a book has to be before it becomes a classic, but I guess a book that you used to read to your own children and which they have long since stopped reading to theirs must count! One such is John Burningham’s Would You Rather. . . one of the best interactive picture books ever published. But if you want to get the kids to bed on time then start early with this one, as your children will get seriously involved in all the choosing.
FAVOURITE RECENT READ
Oh, No George! by Chris Haughton has the kind of simplicity that lets a really great idea breathe. Your kids will fully identify with the anxiety of George’s desire to behave, and giggle in anticipation of his failure to do so. The single word open question at the end of the book is one of the best picture book endings I have come across.
Allan Ahlberg and his late illustrator wife Janet are inseparable when considering the ‘authoring’ of their picture books, but what book to choose? I’ll go with a family favourite, Each Peach Pear Plum, which uses a rhyming game of I Spy to weave its large cast of classic fairytale characters into a single story. One of those picture books that small children will choose time and time again. They will spot all the details you failed to notice.
Quentin Blake should appear in any list of favourite children’s illustrators. Nobody matches the deceptively simple playfulness of his line, which seems always to make a direct connection between himself, his subject and his readers. Whether its wisdom or fun he’s imparting he is peerless. He can really write for young children too. I’m going to choose two very contrasting picture books: Mrs Armitage On Wheels and Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
Emily Brown is self-possessed, hilarious and gently anarchic. That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, the creation of Cressida Cowell and Neil Layton is a real cracker with a terrific plot and a fully satisfying ending. Neil Layton knows exactly how to push the limits, extending the reach of the story by exploring all the avenues that his freestyle approach to illustration makes possible. What results is a wonderful balance between the familiar and the new; between the comfort of a traditional story and the excitement of breaking its boundaries.
The Blue Balloon (anniversary edition) by Mick Inkpen is out now. £6.99 (paperback), Hachette
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My favourite five: award-winning author Emily Gravett