Australian author Bob Graham has become a big favorite around our house... His simple, good-humored stories have a warm, fuzzy feel to them, and show a slice of life that isn't always seen in the idealized world of kid's picturebooks... Graham's characters are funky and downscale, they have earrings and tattoos, they own comfy, overstuffed couches and live near freeways and grassy vacant lots. They're scruffy but lovable -- for families who live in urban environs instead of suburban/barnyard fantasyland, Graham's books are a breath of smoggy fresh air, a real reflection of our neighborhoods and friends. Plus, the stories are great, supported by equally unpretentious, cartoon-y artwork. Give him a try, and you'll be hooked!






Bob Graham Bibliography
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"First There Was Frances"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Bradbury Press, 1985)

(-)


"Pearl's Place"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Picture Lions, 1985)

(-)


"Bath Time For John"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Little Brown & Co., 1985)

(-)


"Roland Harvey's Incredible Book Of Almost Everything"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Sterling, 1985)

(-)


"Where Is Sarah?"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Little, 1985)

(-)


"The Red Woolen Blanket"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Little, 1987)

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"The Adventures Of Charlotte And Henry"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Viking, 1987)

Not the greatest book ever, but it's amusing and will please those readers who are already on Graham's wavelength. This series of five short vignettes originally appeared in some French magazine, and were later dutifully collected into this brief volume. Henry is a cautious young fellow whose best friend is a slightly older girl named Charlotte, who is both reckless and accident-prone. Henry spends his days following her about, warning her first and picking up the pieces later. Their friendship is defined early on when Charlotte comments that one thing she likes about Henry is that he is a worrywart, but he never says "I told you so" when things go wrong. The best story, "The Present," involves Charlotte's sneaky efforts to replace one of Henry's best-loved stuffed animals, a cloth dog that's lost his stuffing -- she smuggles the doll out of Henry's house, but can't find anything like it at any of the toy stores she goes to, and winds up re-stuffing Derby and giving him back to Henry as a surprise. Like the other stories, this captures a certain something about childhood relationships, and it's also very sweet, with no menace or violence anywhere to be seen. It's nice. (B-)


"Crusher Is Coming"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Viking, 1988)

A young boy is agog that Crusher, an older boy who plays on a football team, is coming over to visit. Worried that Crusher won't like him if he seems too much of a "baby" or sissy, the boy pesters his mom not to be too mushy when Crusher is around, and to keep the baby out of sight. Turns out Crusher is a bit of a softie himself, and has as much fun playing with the baby as he does with the older brother... There's a new baby at his house, too, and he's an old hand at playing kootchie-kootchie-koo, even if he is built like a Mack truck. The book zooms by and has an air of inevitability, but it's a nice turnaround on traditional gender stereotypes... Graham sharpened his storytelling skills in later books, but this is still pretty cute. Worth checking out. (B-)


"Here Comes John"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Little Brown & Co, 1988)

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"Pete And Roland"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Puffin, 1988)

(-)


"Here Comes Theo"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Little Brown & Co, 1988)

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"Has Anyone Here Seen William?"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Little, Brown & Co., 1989)

A cute quicky about an irrepresible, adventurous toddler who is always gotten into something a little too exciting by the time anyone realizes he's disappeared from sight. This is a nice early work from Graham -- he doesn't quite have the mastery of the form that make his later books so enchanting, but it's still a lovely book. For starters, William is one cute little kid, and most parents will quickly identify with the mix of nervous laughter and heart-stopping chaos that make the toddler world so memorable. Sweet. (B)


"The Wild"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Harper Collins, 1989)

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"Grandad's Magic"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Walker, 1989)

Alison's grandfather visits every Sunday for lunch, and he always has something his sleeve to amuse the grandkids. He's been teaching her how to juggle and he pulls prizes out of the baby's ear. One day he gets it in his head to try his old showstopper, the big yank-out-the-tablecloth trick. It works, but just barely, and he almost breaks Mom's favorite knick-knacks, prompting Alison to wonder, Is Grandad going to get in trouble? A funny story from Graham's early work -- readers who like 2001's Let's Get A Pup! Said Kate and the sequel, The Trouble With Dogs, will get a kick out of Rupert, the lumpy, lazy couchhog family dog, a clear prototype for lovable Rosie in the Kate books. Worth checking out! (B)


"Greetings From Sandy Beach"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Lothian, 1990)

A fairly convoluted story, written in the form of a postcard home from a holiday at the beach. The main joke of the book is that when the narrator's family -- mom, dad, little girl, baby brother -- get to Sandy Beach, a bunch of bikers are already there, and the parents are a little freaked out by their shaggy, leathered neighbors. But despite the gang's rough image, they are all teddybear sweethearts inside -- they help the hapless family put up their tents, come by at night to play guitar and sing songs, and share their popsicles with the kids. It's a cute premise, but there is a lot of other information and various visual gags floating around in this thin book... In short, it's a bit cluttered and lacks the streamlined charm of Graham's better work. It's still charming and daft, though, and has plenty of his trademark sense of humor. Worth a spin, but maybe not his best. (B-)


"Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarden"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Walker Books, 1992)

(B)


"Spirit Of Hope"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Blackbird, 1993)

A rare dud for Graham. This books explores homelessness in kind of a weird, fairytale-like way, a form that didn't ring true for me... The Fairweathers, a humble family live in the shadow of a factory (where Dad works every day) when suddenly they are told they have to move so a new factory can be built where their house is standing. After a brief bout of homelessness (perhaps; the timeline gets fuzzy) they realize that while they have to leave the land, they can take their house with them (eminent domain must work differently in Australia...) and, with the help of many robust, working class friends, they jack the house up off its foundation, and turn it into a houseboat, out on the nearby harbor. Hmmm. Well, didn't work for me (I actually hid it from my kid, who loves Graham's other books...it just didn't seem to be a very good narrative, too forced, too abstract, and not very satisfying, really.) Might be different for others, though. (C-)


"Zoltan The Magnificent"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Happy Cat, 1994)

(-)


"Queenie, One Of The Family"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 1997)

A typical Bob Graham alterna-family -- Dad with ponytail and earrings, Mom with spiky hair and comfy clothes -- wind up adopting a stray chicken named Queenie, who cluckily moves in and attempts to displace the poor family dog. They take Queenie back to her original home -- a rural farm on the other side of the freeway -- but the resourceful Bantam hen keeps wandering back and depositing eggs (in the dog's bed) for the family to use however they see fit. Their little girl loves Queenie, but when a new baby is born, the hen takes the hint, and moves back to the barn. It's a kooky story, but it has a nice feel. Mostly I like the ambience -- Graham has a way of depicting people who (to me) feel familiar and comfortable to be around. It's almost as if you're just a guest, casually hanging out when the chicken wanders in through the doorflap, and your friends tell you the story of how the chicken showed up one day... Anyway, I like Graham's style a lot, and this is a thoroughly enchanting, kooky little story. (Published in the UK as Queenie The Bantam.) (B+)


"Benny: An Adventure Story"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 1999)

Published in the UK as Buffy: An Adventure Story... Go figure. (-)


"It's Much Too Hot: A First Book About Science"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Zero To Ten, 1999)

(-)


"Rupert Takes A Bath: A First Book About Science"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Zero To Ten, 1999)

(-)


"Look Out For Rosy: A First Book About Science"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Zero To Ten, 1999)

(-)


"Daisy's Wild Ride: A First Book About Science"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Zero To Ten, 1999)

(Originally published as Pig's Wild Cart Ride, in 1991.) (-)


"Brand New Baby"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2000)

(-)


"Max"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick., 2000)

In a nice twist on the "super-kid" theme, Bob Graham presents us with Max, the youngest member of a famous superhero family... He dresses up with a cape and all the other colorful acoutrements, but for some reason his super-powers fail to manifest themselves. His parents try not to make a big deal out of it, but the kids at school give him a hard time, and ask why he doesn't do any super stuff. The book is somewhat of a preview of Graham's Dimity Dumpty, presenting an accidental hero, after a minor crisis prompts Max to start flying... So, instead of smashing renegade asteroids or wrapping bank robbers with bent traffic signs, Max floats up and frees kittens and kites that are stuck in trees, etc. He does little things, but they are all good deeds, and though his efforts aren't earthshaking, Max is comfortably in his humble niche -- let mom and dad go off and stop the alien invasions. I have to confess, even as a comicbook kid myself, I wasn't totally captivated by this one. It was okay, and I suppose if my kid had read some superhero stuff herself, it would have been funnier or more resonant. As it was, it was okay: Graham's general aesthetic, thematic and visual, almost always appeals to me. (B-)


"Let's Get A Pup! Said Kate"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2001)

One day, a young girl named Kate wakes up and decides it's time for the family to get a puppy... Her parents agree, and off they all zoom to the local animal shelter, where they find not one, but two dogs that tug at their hearts, the cute little puppy of their dreams and his companion, an older, bigger furball named Rosie. As with other Graham titles, it's nice to see scruffy, earringed, alterna-parents, and to see regular, non-rich families living nonchalantly amid urban environs... Plus, the story of how they wind up adopting both dogs is a real tear-jerker. A wonderful book! (A)


"Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2002)

Little Annabelle lives in the middle of the city, her backyard is right next to a filling station... But she still looks for fairies wherever she goes, and one day, when the Byrd family's ice cream truck crashes in the parking lot next door, she helps Jethro, the little fairy child and his family, and invites them over for tea. Mom and Dad can't see the fairy family, but they are polite anyway, and Jethro and Annabelle have a wonderful afternoon playing together. A lovely celebration of magic and magical thinking, this shows -- as many other Bob Graham books do -- regular kids living happy, imaginative lives amid crowded urban environs... The story is nice, the art is a delight, the only trouble is that the text is a little crowded. Everytime we hear from one fairy, each member of the family speaks as well, each in quick succession, and it's hard to keep them all separate, do different voices, etc. Still, this is a nice book, and for those who can see faeries, destined to be a classic. (B-)


"Tales From The Waterhole"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Walker Books, 2004)

A chapterbook-ish story, set around a watering hole in Africa. The characters are adolescent animals of the savannah, with a modernized, 21st Century twist... They ride skateboards, etc. and get into some mild hijinks. Tp be honest, I couldn't really get into this one. (C-)


"Oscar's Half Birthday"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2005)

A sweet book about a little baby getting his "half birthday" at six months, because his loving family just can't wait to celebrate him. They go to a local park, set amid a super-urban, post-industrial landscape and have a little picnic, which is joined by numerous friendly strangers from the neighborhood, who all sing "Happy Birthday" for the little drooler... This is a great book for city folks, and particularly for scruffy, non-rich city folks who are tired of reading all those endless books about comfy upper-middle class families ensconced in rustic, idyllic farmhouses off in New England somewhere. In contrast, this features parents with baggy pants, simple t-shirts and unlaced sneakers, walking to a breezeway over a freeway next to their graffiti-laden apartment building. Their humble flat is cluttered but clean, and they accept -- perhaps even relish -- the imperfections around them. Oh, yeah, they're also an interracial couple, although the text calls no attention to it... In brief, this is a nice portrait of the contemporary urban, lower-middle class hipsters building lives in big cities such as London or San Francisco... If you're living there, you'll recognize this young family, and celebrate their cheerfulness and lighthearted embrace of life. The warmth and loving support they show their children defines this book, again, shown without much fanfare, but ringing wonderfully true. Recommended! (For more books by this author, see our Bob Graham profile page) (A-)


"Dimity Dumpty: The Story Of Humpty's Little Sister"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2006)

A behind-the-scenes look at the Dumpty family, where the rambunctious, mischievous Humpty falls off a wall while spray-painting his name across the bricks, and shy little sister Dimity sits by herself on quiet hillsides where she can play the flute alone. In this incarnation, the Dumptys are circus performers (a high wire act, no less!) although the demure Dimity shies away from the spotlight. She's the one who rescues her little brother, though, when he has his great fall, showing that though she is shy, she can still have great courage. This one's a bit of an oddball lark, different than most of Graham's other books, but no less appealing. A fun reimagining of a classic nursery rhyme, as well. This one was a big favorite in our household, with numerous requests to readitagaindaddy and lengthy discussions about Humpty's mishaps and Dimity's bravery. Chances are, you'll like it, too! (B+)


"The Trouble With Dogs... Said Dad"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2007)

The much-welcome sequel to Graham's 2001 classic, Let's Get A Pup! Said Kate. Kate's family is back, with two new members: lovable, lumpy Rosie and the irrepressible, untrainable Dave, two dogs they'd rescued from the pound eight months earlier. An older dog, Rosie is totally mellow and housebroken, but Dave the pup is a holy terror, running through flower patches, tearing people's clothes and -- gasp! -- eating cupcakes off their plates. So, the laid-back slacker family once again turns to the phone book and calls up Pup Breakers, whose top dog trainer, codenamed the Brigadier, comes to bring poor Dave in to heel. The Brigadier is a no-nonsense, tough-love, discipline-first kinda guy, and a poor match for the softer-than-marshmallows familymembers... Or for poor Dave! After his first lesson, the puppy falls into a funk, and loses his "spark." Naturally, Kate (and her parents) tell the Brigadier his services will no longer be required, but he takes it surprisingly well. Here's another great book from Graham: Kate and her family have return with al their lovable quirks intact -- these are people you'll recognize, the tattooed, scruffy, sideburned hipsters who live down the street. Oh, and their dogs are pretty cute, too! (A+)


"Jack's Little Party"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Walker Books, 2007)

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"April And Esme, Tooth Fairies"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2010)

Two young tooth fairies, sisters April and Esme Underhill, go out on their first big tooth-gathering expedition, while their anxious parents wait at home, hoping their kids stay safe. The girls are raring to go, and while they hit a couple of snags, basically all goes well. Their home life is packed with the funky, alterna-vibe of other Bob Graham families, the parents are concerned but casual, their house is snug but slightly shabby. Although I'm a big fan of Bob Graham's work, I have to admit that this book felt forced and fell a little flat for me... Also, this particular literalization of the tooth fairy mythos comes off as a little creepy -- it's the Underhill family business, which is fine, but it's the way they keep old baby teeth hanging off the rafters in their house that seems a bit weird. I suppose overall the story is innocuous, although I was disappointed considering how much I love Graham's other stuff. (B-)




Illustrated By Bob Graham

"Poems For The Very Young"
Written by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Kingfisher, 1994)

(-)


"The Nine Lives Of Aristotle"
Written by Dick King-Smith
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Walker Books/Candlewick, 2000/2003)

A complex, and somewhat dark, chapter book telling the tale of a curious little kitten who burns through his proverbial nine lives, while exploring the world around him. Aristotle lives with a friendly witch named Belladonna who frequently rescues him from various jams, and just as frequently lectures him about needing to be careful that he doesn't use up all his kitty lives. Eventually, cat and keeper befriend a neighbor's dog, and one day the dog dies, illustrating the difference between cats and canines, who only have one life. Aristotle learns to be cautious and conserves his last life, and thus endeth the book. Probably better for older kids (obviously) with perfect pictures by Bob Graham. (-)


"Full House"
Written by Nigel Gray
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Star Bright, 1998)

(Republished in the USA as My Dog, My Cat, My Mama, And Me! Reviewed below.) (-)


"This Is Our House"
Written by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 2005)

(-)


"My Dog, My Cat, My Mama, And Me!"
Written by Nigel Gray
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick, 1998/2007)

A modest but charming lift-the-flap book about childbirth and pregnancy. A young girl notices a lot of family members getting big tummies -- first the dog, then the cat -- and when she looks inside their hidey-holes after they get slender again, she discovers that they have had puppies or kittens (as the case may be). By the time her mother starts to swell up, the girl knows what's going on, and is delighted to find that mama had a baby, too -- four of them, in fact! There aren't many flaps -- one for the cat, one for the dog, and one for the babies' stroller -- but the message of the book comes through clearly, and the cheerfulness will be welcome to families where additional little ones are on the way. Plus, love that Bob Graham art! (Originally published in the UK as Full House) (B)




Links

  • Walker Books (Graham's UK publisher) has a nice autobiographical profile...




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