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!
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 to 8
Author: Allan Ahlberg / Illustrator: Janet Ahlberg