Until I Met Dudley by Roger McGough and Chris Riddell

If you haven’t yet discovered the world of machines and technology, as explained by the eponymous Dudley, then you haven’t lived! This incredibly fun, creative and inspiring text will have you thinking up amazing and unusual explanations for everyday processes. At the heart of the book is the professor pooch, Dudley, who talks the reader through the unusual means by which machines function…like the enormous snake that lives in your vacuum cleaner or the colony of polar bears keeping your fridge chilled!

Quick Activities

To really get the children thinking and stimulate excellent discussion, provide them with an image from the text without the written explanation. Can they explain to a partner how the machine works? How close were they to the ‘Dudley’ version? 

Explore the whole text with the children and ask them to pick their favorite machine. Can they then write an explanation of how the machine works or a set of instructions for caring for the creature that drives the machine? They might even need to create a set of health and safety instructions as the vacuum snake can get a little peckish between meals!

Extended Activities

‘Until I Met Dudley’ could be used as the stimulus for an extended English and DT project. Once the children are familiar with the text and have had a chance to explore written explanations or instructions for the machinery in the book, they could go on to create their own wild and wacky machines.

As further stimulus, the illustrations of Rube Goldberg provide further fun. The illustrator designs ridiculously complicated inventions to perform the simplest of tasks and accompanies each with minimal explanation. The children could try expanding on these before creating their own fully explained wacky inventions.

Finally, the children could be challenged to make a model of their invention. This could range from junk modeling to more skilled tasks such as projects incorporating simple syringe/tubing pneumatics or cam driven mechanisms. There is loads of fun to be had once you have met Dudley!

Colin Thompson


I love authors who create their own mythology around their work. Colin Thompson incorporates hidden features throughout his books, such as his signature being hidden within each illustration. I’m going to spend this afternoon scouring my Thompson collection to select which of his impressive catalogue will be featured as the first focus for my teaching and learning ideas. Keep watching!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

During my many years as a teacher, I have witnessed first hand the power of pictures, imagery and symbolism to stimulate and engage learners. Pictures reach to the very core of the human condition; cave paintings were used to communicate the earliest experiences of our species and we have been hooked ever since. The world is full of amazing picture books, potent novels and powerful images which act as a catalyst for the imagination. Unfortunately, many educationalists still limit their own potential and that of their learners by insisting that picture books, in particular, are consigned to areas of earliest childhood learning, when in actual fact they can be even more impactful with older pupils. I have therefore made it one of my missions in life to spread the word (or should I say pictures!) about the importance of illustrated stories in firing the imagination and inspiring experimentation with the written word.What I hope to share here are some simple suggestions of picture books and other sources that can help to create exciting and engaging learning opportunities for children. In addition, I would hope to share some suggested activities for my favourite texts which might encourage my fellow teachers to set off on their own journey into the world of picture books.

I am happy for anyone to contact me if I can be of any help or offer advice from my perspective. Enjoy!