Burglar Bill - Story Snug

Burglar Bill by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Happy 40th Birthday Burglar Bill!

Burglar Bill was a favourite of mine when I first started teaching and my daughter loves the story too. I was amazed when I discovered that Burglar Bill is 40 years old this year! Originally published in 1977 it’s fabulous that this humorous story has been read and enjoyed by several generations of children.

The Story: One night when Burglar Bill is out burgling he takes home a big cardboard box and he’s most surprised to discover that there’s a baby inside! That night, while lying in bed, Burglar Bill hears a noise and creeps downstairs to discover that he’s being burgled! Burglar Betty turns out to be the baby’s mother and after a chat over cocoa and biscuits the two burglars decide that it’s time for a lifestyle change.

Burglar Bill is quite happy living in his tall house with all his stolen property but when Burglar Betty breaks in and frightens him he realises the impact that his actions have had on others. Once they have resolved to change their ways the two burglars make amends and embark on a more honest way of life. When Betty sells her house her actions are extremely benevolent!

There is so much humour in this story, both in the text and the illustrations. We love the repetitive phrase that both Bill and Betty say as they find things to steal, ‘That’s a nice… – I’ll have that!’ Children enjoy joining in with the repetition which also makes this a great story for a beginner reader. The items that Bill steals make us laugh – a tin of beans, a toothbrush and then the big cardboard box that he steals without even looking inside! My daughter thinks it’s hilarious that Betty steals the tin of beans from Bill and she loves Bill’s cat, it’s the perfect colour for a burglar!

Burglar Bill and Betty - Story Snug

I was amazed when I discovered that Burglar Bill was published 40 years ago but the story and the humour are timeless and still entertaining. I love reading it aloud which often takes a while as we look at all the little details in Janet Ahlberg’s wonderful illustrations.

If you’re looking for a costume for World Book Day, Burglar Bill is a great character to dress up as. All you need is a stripy teeshirt, a black cap and a big sack. You can draw his mask on with face paints.

Age Range: 5+

Author: Allan Ahlberg / Illustrator: Janet Ahlberg

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32 responses to “Burglar Bill by Janet & Allan Ahlberg”

  1. Acorn Books avatar

    I remember this one! Can’t believe it’s 40 years old, the sign of a truly good book when it’s still being enjoyed by children today. #readwithme

    1. Catherine avatar

      Those 40 years just flew by!!

  2. Sarah - let them be small avatar

    ah, I remember this! My older two discovered the happy families series recently that features burglar bill 🙂

    1. Catherine avatar

      I remember the Happy Families series but I didn’t know that Burglar Bill was included.

  3. Helena avatar

    That’s a great book I’ll have that. I loved this book and others by the same duo growing up. #mmbc

    1. Catherine avatar

      Ha ha! I love that line.’That’s a great tin of beans…!’

  4. Shell Louise avatar

    As a previous poster said, I can’t believe I haven’t read this! I remember seeing it in the school library.
    I love Janet and Allen’s jolly postman books, as do my girls so I’ll be on the lookout to get this one for them 🙂

    1. Catherine avatar

      I hope that your girls will enjoy it 🙂

  5. Sonia avatar

    Burglar Bill was one of my favourites when I was at school. Can’t believe it’s the same age as me!! 😉

    1. Catherine avatar

      I was surprised to discover that the book was so old too!

  6. suz avatar

    How can Burglar Bill be 40 years old and I’ve never read it?
    Must look out for a copy. It sounds fun.

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s fun to read aloud. Definitely worth a read 🙂

  7. Kim Carberry avatar

    Oh gosh! What a blast from the past. I forgot this book even existed. I remember it from my childhood.

    1. Catherine avatar

      Hopefully you have good memories of the story 🙂

  8. BookBairn avatar

    I wonder if 40 years on Burglar Bill is as agile and sneaky as he used to be! Great share! #readwithme

    1. Catherine avatar

      I wonder if Burglar Bill’s baby became a burglar or a baker 🙂

  9. Yet Another Blogging Mummy avatar

    Are there more similar stories about Burglar Bill as I feel I may have read something similar, but not this. Like the sound of it though #readwithme

    1. Catherine avatar

      Burglar Bill makes a cameo appearance in Cops and Robbers which was also written and illustrated by the Ahlbergs.

  10. Sarah MumofThree World avatar

    It sounds fab and I can’t believe none of us have ever read it! I would have been young enough to read it as a child and it’s completely passed me by as a parent too!

    1. Catherine avatar

      I’m sure that you’d enjoy it, it’s a fun story 🙂

  11. chantelle hazelden avatar
    chantelle hazelden

    I used to love this story, didn’t know it was this old!! Thanks for sharing with #ReadWithMe

    1. Catherine avatar

      I had no idea that Burglar Bill was this old when I started writing the post. It’s a complete coincidence that I found out!

  12. mummy here and there avatar

    I have got this book, I loved it as a child and now can pass it on to my children X #mmbc

    1. Catherine avatar

      Isn’t it lovely when we can enjoy childhood books with our own children 🙂

  13. ReadItDaddy avatar

    One of the greatest children’s books ever written and one that we still can’t get enough of, even now! Just unbelievable that it’s 40 years old and still feels so brilliantly original and fresh! As said elsewhere, just so much fun to read aloud!

    1. Catherine avatar

      Burglar Bill is still read really often in our house. I dressed up as Burglar Bill for a book day at school one year but unfortunately I don’t have a picture 🙁

  14. Frances Brown avatar
    Frances Brown

    Hi Catherine. I haven’t read that one, so thanks for the heads up! Sounds brilliant.

    1. Catherine avatar

      Burglar Bill is great! He’s definitely on my list of classic children’s picture books 🙂

  15. five little doves avatar

    This is one of our favourite books! Such a good story and the illustrations are lovely! #MMBC

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s a great book isn’t it! I would love to see a sequel 🙂

  16. Anne avatar

    I can’t believe I’ve not read this! Sounds like something my little man will love, I must get a copy. #MMBC

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s a really fun story. I hope that you enjoy it too 🙂