Griffiths grabs new generation

Andy Griffiths greets a young fan on his visit to Launceston late last year.
Andy Griffiths greets a young fan on his visit to Launceston late last year.

TWENTY years ago, Andy Griffiths was not to be trusted.

Parents watched nervously as their children devoured his tales of silliness and mayhem, worried that their brood may act on the themes contained within the JUST! series, or The Day My Bum Went Psycho.

But it was a seed of literacy - not anarchy - that Griffiths had in mind all along. Now that generation of young readers are introducing their own kids to his weird and wonderful world.

Griffiths, Australia's most popular children's author, has produced more than 25 books since putting pen to paper in 1992, several of his tales making best seller lists and being adapted to the screen.

For 20 years he has delivered tales of the bizarre and naughty, his Treehouse series the most recent example, with yesterday's children helping stretch his legacy across two generations.

"When I first started, it took a while for the parents to get comfortable with what I was doing," he said.

"They were very nervous because they thought I was trying to stir the kids up and make them behave badly. But after a while, they could see I just wanted the kids to fall in love with reading.

"Now the parents are in on the joke, and they are often the ones laughing the loudest."

Griffiths said he was expecting to meet both young and old during his three days at Beaconsfield Primary School next weekend as part of the Festival of Golden Words.

Speaking to a crowd remains a humbling notion for the 52-year-old, who said he never expected his stories to catch on as they had.

"It is incredibly gratifying, because in the beginning I didn't think it would last," he said.

"I maybe thought it would apply to one generation of kids, and then they would move on, because kids are notorious for moving on. But it seems that kids haven't changed that much. They all enjoy silliness and incongruity and playfulness in fiction."

Aside from employing props such as cockroach salad and spew relish, Griffiths said kids needed to trust their storyteller.

"The children's writers I have admired - people like Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton - all of them have a voice that you instantly relax and go with," he said.

"They can entertain you, scare you, lead you up the garden path. But you love the sound of their voice, even beyond what they are talking about. When you're in the hands of a good storyteller, you relax, and let them take you where they want to take you."


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