Last week Nicci wrote a wonderful guest post about Spike Milligan’s Badjelly the Witch and it really conjured up some great memories for me of being read Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids by my parents. The pure joy of the Milligan poetry was that as much as I loved it as a child, my parents also thought it was hilarious because the humour he used in his writing translated perfectly between adults and children.
I have recently revisited a series of books that holds the same charm and sense of fun that the Milligan poetry did. I used to bring the George and Martha series by James Marshall home from primary school as readers. Each book contains a number of short stories about the friendship between two Hippos called George and Martha. The stories are only very basic, a couple of sentences each page and only the length of 3 or 4 pages – which is why they were perfect as readers.
The humour, in both the text and illustrations, in these mini stories is tongue-in-cheek and partly ridiculously true but always fun. When I reread the books I can’t help but laugh out loud at these gorgeous characters whose friendship and love for each other is adorable. The books teach children about the value of friendship and the give and take that is so important in making friendships last lifetimes.
I recently bought myself, and Ned, a copy of George and Martha Encore (1973) in which George learns a Mexican hat dance and both George and Martha try speaking some French. My favorite story is when they head to the beach and despite George’s warnings, Martha refuses to wear her suntan lotion…
“You’ll be sorry” George called out.
“Oh, pooh” said his friend.
“You’re a fuss-budget, George”.
Martha was having a lovely time.
The next day Martha had terrible sunburn!
She felt all hot and itchy. But George never said “I told you so.”
Because that’s not what friends are for.
In the hardcover complete collection of stories that was put together for the 25th anniversary of George and Martha, Maurice Sendak contributes a forward. He says of the hippos …
“Those dear, ditzy, down-to-earth hippos bring serious pleasure to everybody, not only to children. They are time-capsule hippos who will always remind us of a paradise in publishing and–both seriously and comically–of the true, durable meaning of friendship under the best and worst conditions.”