Ian Whybrow’s guest blog
March 18, 2013

Before I took up writing full time, I spent most of my working life in secondary education, as Head of English and Drama and later as Head of a Sixth Form.

My first book for children, The Sniff Stories was published by The Bodley Head in 1989, and thanks to a kind review in The Times by the screenwriter, Andrew Davies I was able to build a writing career from that time. Since then, I’ve written well over a hundred children’s books which are published in at least 27 languages in 28 countries. I’m best known for the Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs series (Puffin); but have worked with some of the country’s best illustrators to produce dozens of pop-up books and picture books like Quacky Quack Quack! (Walker) – now in 7th edition; The Tickle Book, The Bedtime Bear and The Say Hello series (Macmillan). Popular stories for middle-junior readers include a series of ten Books for Boys (Hodder) the Little Wolf series and the Meerkat Madness series (Harper-Collins)

More recently I’ve been asked to write stories to be enjoyed online, including the collection of which comes (complete with a musical game) as an iPhone and iPad “app” called Shrinky Kid’s Boogie Box, available through iTunes.

Children love machines and I wrote “The Flying Diggers” out of affection for that remarkably sturdy and instantly-recognisable British machine, the dazzling yellow JCB, whose initials stand for its inventor, Joseph Cyril Bamford. A visit to the factory at Rocester convinced me that the appeal of these powerful beasts lies in their magical ability to morph into all sorts of shapes. So why not have JCBs that besides digging trenches and earthworks, can fly to the rescue of creatures in distress and do the bidding of small children as well? When I discovered the chapel-like building where Joseph Bamford first experimented with hydraulic arms for a tractor, the idea of a kindly grandfather who might create something magical for his grandchildren was born. He has morphed into Granbam.

To have this book with David Melling’s delightful illustration adapted for blind children is a particular thrill for me. Who would have thought that the skills of the wood-carver could bring under the fingertips of the unsighted something of the magic of the workshop and the miraculous little work-horses that the rest of us take for granted? Living Paintings deserves, combining as it does engineering and imagination, to stand alongside JCB as one of the great British inventions and institutions of our time.

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