I remember it well. The frantic dash home after a long day at work, hoping to make it home for the end of bath time. Or at the very latest, being in time to read the bedtime story. This was always my favourite time of the day: snuggled up in bed, or on beanbags in ‘story corner’ next to the kids’ bookshelf on the landing to read one or two picture books. Julia Donaldson and Oliver Jeffers were favourites, and I cherished those moments reading The Incredible Book Eating Boy, The Gruffalo and Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. I also used to make up “Daddy stories”-an extra story if requested, once they were in bed, just before lights out when I would freestyle some daft yarn off the top of my head, involving the kids and an array of characters of variable repute (Snufflepants the magical cake-baking dragon featured heavily).
This lead to me concocting a story for my son, Ethan, about him befriending a lost hoopoe and the chaos that followed. I decided to sketch it out, thinking that I could bundle up the doodles into a rough and ready home-made picture book that he would get a kick out of.
I enjoyed scratching the other side of my brain on an evening after a hard day of graft, doodling and writing on the sofa before the sleep-deprivation finally consumed me.
But, I have to admit I got a bit carried away. I spent ages on the children characters, trying to make each one look like one of my son’s friends and relations. I snuck in Billy Casper from Kes and little nods to Tintin and The Powerpuff Girls that only I would know were there. And it was all taking far too long. He’d be reading stories to his own kids before I got this finished!
In the end I rushed to finish it and had 5 copies made for Ethan and family members (including one for his little sister who had been born way after I had started the book, and would hopefully be happy with a cameo appearance!).
It was always intended to be just for him, and I had no aspirations for it other than that. I kept it on the down low and even YOLOBirder managed to keep his big mouth shut!
I found the sketches and the original pages in an HMV bag in the loft today, and I remembered how long I spent on this labour of love. I posted a couple of photos on Twitter earlier today and the responses gave me the courage to write this blog.
It’s a bit embarrassing to share the book like this, as it was only ever meant for an audience of one (plus a few members of the family), and it’s far from perfect. But it was made with love at a time when my kids were little and reading them stories at bedtime was the best part of my day.
So, here it is: The Hoopoe Hullabaloo!