When Andy Griffiths was teaching high school students in Mildura in the late 1980s, he was struck by how different their experience of reading was from his own. In his youth, books were omnipresent, and were wild, fun places to be—an escape from the adult word of logic.
In my experience as a child I loved being a little bit scared and I loved a good story. There are very few kids that can resist the lure of both of those.
ANDY GRIFFITHS, AUTHOR
But many of the kids at his school had never had a good experience with a book. Books were for nerds, they told him, and to be avoided at all costs.
‘I wanted to turn my class around,’ he tells Sunday Extra.
‘I started writing down silly little stories, provocative stories, about bums growing arms and legs and running away. And they laughed … “This is cool, sir! Can I write a story like that?” I said, “Yeah! And I’ll photocopy them and we’ll put them in a book in the library and look, you’ve just become authors.”
‘They had this sudden organic connection to words and stories and got the idea that you’re actually entertaining an audience.’
A quarter of a century later, Griffiths is one of Australia’s best-known children’s authors, having sold more than five million copies of his books around the world. The stories about bums growing arms and legs turned into a three-part series with increasingly silly titles—The Day My Bum Went Psycho, Zombie Bums from Uranus, and Bumageddon: The Final Pongflict—and even an animated TV series.