This month, Lucy Mangan muses on her childhood TV favourites, and how new books mean that children are rediscovering vintage characters like The Clangers on the page as well on screen.
I am 106. There were no TV tie-in books when I were a lass, unless you count the Blue Peter and Magpie annuals. The closest there came were editions of books reprinted with stills from recent television adaptations on the front covers. My Famous Five collection was replete with scenes from the 1978 series starring Marcus Harris, Gary Russell, Jennifer Thanisch, Michelle Gallagher and Toddy as the ripping quintet. I loathed them with a passion that went far beyond words. First, because the right to envision my five best friends was mine and mine alone. Two, even at the age of eight my hatred of 70s fashion was fully formed and the sight of Julian, Dick, Anne and George in flares was wrong on every level. And three, I resented all the children who had got to see this mythic TV series while I was busy gumming on rusks. Born too late, as the Poni-Tails so rightly said.
And of course there were the books from which TV series derived – Paddington, for me, mainly. Bod had been a set of four volumes originally, but I didn’t know that until about three weeks ago, when I was trying to find episodes for my four year old to watch on the internet in the dog days of August school holidays.
Now, of course, there is a plethora of delights. Children’s television programming has exploded and with it the tie-ins. I confess that my heart breaks a little whenever my son chooses one of them over one of the beautiful old hardbacks from my own youth that I leave temptingly – or not, as it turns out – about the house. The taint of commercialism! Denatured pap! Why is everything good old? Why is the whole of life entropy and decay? Why can’t I believe in God and a better life after this that will restore everything to its rightful place?
Motherhood, I have found, is simply a series of increasingly mad detonations in your mind throughout the day. But we’ll discuss that another time. Maybe over wine and a special Penguin Blog: After Dark edition.
But here’s the thing about a book with a well-loved TV character in it. Kids’ll read it. Crucially, kids that are not otherwise very interested in reading will read it. And that brings them closer to reading other things. Maybe even one day beautiful 1960s hardback editions of Miroslav Sasek’s This Is New York. For instance.
At the moment, pride of place on the bookshelf is taken by Peppa’s Post which is the most astonishing package of goodies, following the format of Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s famous The Jolly Postman, comprising envelopes full of invitations (to Peppa’s school pantomime), tickets, costumes, code-breaking kits and myriad other things that make it a very good book to read during the day and a very bad one to read as a bedtime story unless you like finishing around midnight with your child as high as a kite.
Second only to Peppa’s Post we have Clangers: The Brilliant Surprise which is entrancing him as much as the little pink snouty whistlers are on television. He only knows the new ones so far (the series is overseen by Dan Postgate, son of Oliver, the creator of the original Clangers in the 60s and 70s) but the iPad and I shall change that soon. Time bends, and it always bends eventually to Mummy’s will.
Follow Lucy on Twitter @LucyMangan.