Not Now, Bernard by David McKee

Not Now, Bernard by David McKee (Andersen, 1980)

Not Now, Bernard by David McKee is a children’s classic, first published in 1980 by Andersen Press and still going strong. It’s also another controversial one. Bernard tries to tell his mum and dad that there’s a monster in the garden which is going to eat him. They’re too busy to listen so he goes out and the monster eats him “every bit”. Then the monster moves into the house but they’re too busy to notice that too, and put him to bed where he lies looking perplexed and confused.

Is it a humerous story of parents too caught up in their own lives to notice a monster moving in? Is it a cautionary tale for parents about the importance of spending time with your children? Or is it a horrific catalogue of neglect, murder and identity theft? Just have a look at the reviews on Amazon to see the divided opinions – the 5-star reviews outweigh the 1-stars 3:1 but the haters are particularly vocal.

Personally, this isn’t a book I have strong memories of from growing up – I am neither an adoring fan nor somebody who has been scarred for life by it. I find the message rather uneasy but more in a slightly guilty way than in an outraged one. And really it’s a children’s book after all, so what does it tell children? Unfortunately, the book is currently yet another that has been enthusiastically brought home from the library and then pointedly ignored so I have yet to discover what the boys think of it.

Where do you stand? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear. For a brilliant analysis by someone who knows way more what they’re talking about than I do, see also here: Stroppy Author: Book Vivisection.

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About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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