This was the unexpected finding of my first bookshop signing. Determined to have plenty of interesting things for kids to do (and to avoid ending up behind a table bleating “Please buy my book!”) I had compiled a quiz on childhood misdoings. A sort of survey, if you like. As the heroine of my book, Martha, is a real “little stinker” I thought it would be fun to find out how many other little stinkers there are out there. So I compiled a list and handed it out.
Well, it turned out they were a pretty well-behaved bunch in Waterstone’s. However much they enjoyed reading about naughty characters, and chuckling at their exploits (they were good enough to chuckle loudly at Martha’s) they scored low on the naughtiness index. A more polite, obedient, considerate bunch I have seldom met. Maybe this is a sign that reading books makes for a well-behaved child? (And is yet one more reason to reverse those library cuts?)
Except when it came to eating dog food. Then it was a different story.
A little girl came up to me. Did cat food count, she wanted to know?
Certainly, I replied.
Include cat food, and everyone seemed to have tucked into their pet’s dinner, one time or another. One parent revealed that the family cat could only be fed when her son was elsewhere; another waxed nostalgic about the childhood joys of nibbling Whiskas.
Hmm. I grew up with a family dog – and somehow I never once felt like sharing his supper.
Anyhow, it certainly broke the ice, and the signing went with a swing. There were ups and downs, of course. I had brought too few colouring sheets. A friend of mine went dashing onto the street in search of photocopiers: thank you, Thomas Cook, who gallantly responded to his plea and ran off extra copies! Thank you everyone who did so much to help in different ways.
So here you go (be honest now):
- Have you ever flushed your sister’s homework down the toilet?
- Have you sneaked food from fridge, cupboard or biscuit tin?
- Have you ever tried to sell your brother?
- Have you eaten dog food?
- Have you ever made a cake from dog food and served it to your family?
I’m glad to reveal that nobody said “Yes” to the last one. It wasn’t one of Martha’s misdeeds either. It was my sister.
Yes, I remember it well.
Read about Martha's exploits in How (Not) To Make Bad Children Good
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