Remember in Not Now Bernard, when Bernard's dady won't take any notice of him?
He's reading the newspaper.
Reading the paper is what daddies (and sometimes mummies) do in picture books when they are being grown-up, not engaging with their children, and not wanting to be disturbed. But who reads the paper? How many small children see their parents reading the paper? I wondered about this as I tried to write a page of a picture book in which a daddy does some household chores and then sits down to relax. I don't want him to watch television. (Apart from anything else, he lives on a beach in Mauritius. Oh, and he's a dodo.) But I don't want him doing something alien that will require unpicking by the small reader. Perhaps he'll do some baking. (I know, he lives on a beach in Mauritius...)
Once you start thinking about it, lots of activities that used to be the familiar routine of a small child's life aren't actually that common any more. How many people walk to the shops? How many even GO to the shops? Is there a picture book yet in which the arrival of the Ocado/Tesco delivery man is an awaited event? In which daddy reads The Times app on his iPad after work? In which the Tiger uses all the bandwidth and no-one can look at YouTube or update their status to say 'There's a tiger in the kitchen'?
I wonder if we're in danger of the quotidian humdrummery of mid-twentieth-century life becoming the Hansel-and-Gretel forest of picture-book land? The comfortable home life - Max with his hot drink before bed, Sophie sitting at the kitchen table for tea made on a proper cooker, Bernard whose daddy can (can't, actually) wield a hammer - do they even look like reality any more to most kids? Older siblings in picture books don't sit playing Angry Birds on their phones. Children still go outside to play (with no-one warning them about paedophiles or road-ragers). In the supermarket, they queue at the checkout instead of scanning their own shopping. Babies sleep under quilts and not in grow-bags.
So what should a daddy dodo do when he's finished his chores? Perhaps he will dance. That never goes out of fashion.
aka Stroppy Author