Dirtie Bertie turns 10 years old, but how did he come into being?

DB_TOOTHYfinal 2013 sees the 10th birthday of one of the most mischievous troublemakers in children’s books – the one and only Dirty Bertie!

Created by one of the UK’s foremost children’s illustrators, David Roberts, Bertie is the star of two picture books, Dirty Bertie and Pooh! Is That You, Bertie? as well as a fabulously funny young
fiction spin-off series, the 19th instalment of which, Toothy!, came out last month.

To celebrate 10 years of Dirty Bertie I asked David Roberts to share some of the secrets about how his amazing character came into being, and here’s what he had to say:-

“Dirty Bertie started life as ‘Dirty Bob’ back in 1997. I had an idea for a character of a little boy that would not be horrid, mean or particularly naughty but was socially unaware and whose habits were considered by others to be extremely dirty.

When I first started illustrating children’s books I was thrilled to be offered black & white fiction and educational books but I had a real desire to do a picture book so although I’m not a writer and don’t necessarily want to write stories myself I decided to have a go and create my tale of the little boy with filthy habits and the consequences that came from them. I decided very early on to change his name because ‘Bob the Builder’ was very popular at the time and in a way it did me a favour because in changing his name to Bertie I was able to rhyme the title ‘Dirty Bertie’ and this was far more suitable. I myself wrote two stories for Bertie ‘Dirty Bertie’ and ‘Pooh, Is That You Bertie?’ which were both published by Little Tiger Press.

I was starting to write a third story when Jane Harris at the new arm of Little Tiger Press, Stripes, approached me as they were looking for a character that they could use for a new series of chapter books and Bertie seemed perfect. Alan Macdonald was approached to write the texts for Bertie who would now become a slightly older child of about 7 and together we’ve been able to create all sorts of adventures for him with his family and school friends. At school Bertie, Darren, Eugene, Donna and Bertie’s arch nemesis ‘Know All Nick’ are all constantly being monitored by the watchful eye of the fearsome Miss Boot. The little girl who lives next door called Angela Nicely has a crush on Bertie, much to Bertie’s absolute horror. Alan and I are just embarking on a spin-off series all about Angela, which Bertie will feature in, and of course Bertie will continue having his own adventures.

What I love about Bertie in my original stories and the chapter books that followed is that Bertie is always surprised at other people’s reactions to his dirty habits and he learns from the consequences that result from them, for instance, eating dirty sweets off the floor makes him sick. When I read these stories at festivals or school events, the children delight in reacting to Bertie’s habits with disgust and love to tell me about their own dirty habits, like picking their nose and eating it – yuck. This I always try to discourage as best I can!”

Thank you David! Here’s to another 10 years of bogeys, burps and suspicious smells!

At www.dirtybertiebooks.co.uk you can find info on all the books in the series, watch David Roberts’ guide to drawing Dirty Bertie, download an activity pack and enter a competition, as well as playing on Bertie’s interactive soundboard app.

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