My Naughty Little Sister & Burglar Bill or ‘How Housework Made Me Feel Young Again’


 Once Upon a Time

My Naughty Little Sister - and Friends

One of my earliest memories is sitting on a train (I think it was heading towards Leeds) and listening to my mum reading ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea‘ out loud to me. The carriage was full, the night was drawing in and at one point in the story (I suspect it was when the naughty tiger had ‘drunk all Daddy’s beer) I looked up to see that we had been surrounded by all the other children in the carriage. They listened as I did, their eyes wide at the story of the naughty tiger who had popped in for tea.

After the post-Christmas influx of toys and games and books this year I decided to have a proper sort out of my children’s bedrooms and as I did so I found myself being transported back nearly forty years. Tidying and sorting out may have taken longer (make that a good few hours longer) – but was made far more enjoyable as I pulled out the stories of ‘Milly Molly Mandy‘ and ‘My Naughty Little Sister‘ that I loved as a child. Do you remember Billy Boy Blunt and Little Friend Susan? And Bad Harry with bunny eared slippers in the snow? How about Burglar Bill and his dramatic romance with Burglar Betty?

The drawings in my well-thumbed copy of ‘Bread and Jam for Frances‘ seemed as real to me as I sat, surrounded by bin bags and boxes, as they did when I was five years old. I could even remember the rhyme that Frances, a young badger who has decided that all she really wants to eat is bread and jam, sings as she skips … “Jam on biscuits, jam on toast, Jam is the thing that I like most.”

Bread and Jam for Frances

Bread and Jam for Frances

These books with their battered covers and occasional jam stains are to my generation (I’m nearly forty) what ‘The Gruffalo‘ and ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid‘ will be to children today.They are vivid and bright and have helped to inform our view of the world so that we understood it that little bit more. New experiences like friendships, familial relationships, new foods and the great outdoors were handled with gentle humour and wit. Although I’m still not quite sure what I’d do if I tiger ever knocked at my door for tea – would you?


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