Babette Cole 10.9.49 – 15.1.16

Author and illustrator Babette Cole has died.

. . . Among her bestsellers were the Princess Smartypants series, which reimagined the traditional fairytale heroine as a motorbiking Ms; books about Dr Dog, a family pet who dispenses medical advice, which were turned into an animated cartoon series; and The Trouble With Mum and its sequels.

Never conventional in appearance, conversation or lifestyle, in person Babette was a highly entertaining companion, a brilliant raconteur of stories true or fanciful, told in a breathy voice and with theatrical manner. Her life as she relayed it seemed to be a series of entertainingly optimistic plans combined with disasters or near-disasters; and her picture books had a similar sense of high-octane drama underpinned by an anarchic sense of humour.

Despite the fun, Babette was no lightweight. She created books on the kinds of disgusting topics that children love and adults mostly do not, and then, emboldened by their success, she went on to more controversial subjects, partly because she liked to shock and partly because she felt she had a duty to make sure children were properly informed. . . 

The Trouble with Mum is a delightful book.

The trouble with Mum is that she’s different. She wears funny hats, makes funny cakes and the other parents don’t like her. This makes her sad. Then one day the school goes on fire and Mum, who is different because she’s a witch, magics up some rain and saves the day.

One of the lines I remember from the book is Mum was sad.

Shortly after one of the many re-readings of the book when my daughter was about two,  she found me in tears, gave me a hug and asked, why Mummy sad? I explained I was reading a sad book and was grateful for the story which had taught her to recognise the feeling.

You can listen to the The Trouble with Mum here (though it uses Mom not Mum) and Princess Smartypants here.

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