Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Roald Dahl Funny Prize

Booktrust have just announced the shortlist for their new prize: The Roald Dahl Funny Prize. A brilliant idea, I think. The things that made you laugh as a child tend to stick with you.

What struck me as I looked at the shortlists was that amongst the Georgia Nicholsons (whom I do like, a lot) and Julia Donaldsons, there was good old Paddington. To be precise, Paddington Here and Now.

When I was young, there was a bear divide in our household. My sister was a big Paddington fan, but Gwynedd Rae's Mary Plain was the bear for me. I loved Mary and the Bear Pit at Bern (deeply politically uncorrect now, I'm sure), and the Twins and Frisca. Paddington made me smile, but Mary made me laugh.

Is there a William/Jennings divide as well as a bear one, I wonder? William never did much for me - always something of the thug about William, I felt, but I loved Jennings and Darbishire. It was a source of great grief to my OH and me that neither of our children showed the remotest spark of attraction to Jennings; nor even Willans and Searle's Molesworth.

I don't think it can be the difference in types of school which gets them: I went to a 1960s built grammar school, not a private school like St Custard's - but for them it simply doesn't click. I even went through a period of writing sub-Molesworth stuff for the school magazine (which the sixth form editors loved, but my English teacher loathed. "Jane must learn to curb her eccentricity," she wrote on my report. Bearing in mind I now specialise in pony books I think you can see that I failed to take much notice of that - died in the wool bolshiness which failed to win me the school deportment girdle, let alone The Mrs Joyful Prize for Raffia Work.)

I can still quote reams of Down With Skool (chiz, chiz), and was completely bowled over by this wonderful updating of Molesworth by the utterly brilliant Alice Dryden.

So, who makes you laugh? Should I give William another try?


Vanessa said...

Tell me you didn't really have a prize for deportment or raffia-work????

I've never been a big fan of Jennings or William but I do like Molesworth. Some of my favourite funny books though are Ruby Ferguson's Jill series - Jill always makes me laugh. And some of K M Peyton's drier moments such as the big in The Last Ditch where Peter is having to explain to his brother about the chandelier falling on Dogwood. And I've currently reading a couple of Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson books and Georgia makes me laugh out loud.

Still worried about the deportment girdle though...

Juxtabook said...

It is not just the prize for deportment that makes me laugh, it's that it was a girdle; I assume medieval style belt thing not actual corset items, but even so!! You are making this up aren't you??!

What made me laugh as a child - Helen Cresswell's Bagthorpe Saga. Still does, though I have not seen a copy since I returned them to Widnes library in about 1981, but some of the scenes and punch lines still pop into my head.

Had I know about your deportment girdle however the Bagthorpe's probably would have seemed dull!

GeraniumCat said...

Oh, Mary Plain! I'm still reading those - my son bought the most beautiful facsimile copies a while ago, and I found a first edition. They are etched on my soul, still make me laugh, and I love Bunch and the carrots.

The facsimiles seem to have disappeared again, which is tragic.

Roger Thomas said...

Molesworth still amuses, but Jennings and William, which I used to love, seemed a bit formulaic last time I tried rereading them. Unfortunately I only read my first J.P. Martin 'Uncle' book when I was 45, so I suppose he doesn't count - but the combination of Martin's absurdly named villains (Beaver Hateman and Jellytussle) and ludicrous plots and Quentin Blake's brilliant drawings gets me sniggering and chuckling in no time.

Jane Badger said...

Vanessa. Nope. Neither. Graber Ma of St Custard's was a regular winner of the MJP for Raffia Work. I never aspired to those heights.

Juxtabook - no I'm not!

Geranium Cat - perhaps someone should republish Mary? Vanessa?

Roger - I've just bought an Uncle book so must try and read it before I sell it!

Susie Vereker said...

I was jolly proud of my deportment girdle (pale peacock-blue rather than grey!)
I bet none of you has ever read the Mr Buffin books. They were amusing in a non-pc way. Even Little Grey Rabbit was vaguely humorous, I remember.

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