Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg


Written by Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg
Part of the Funnybones Series

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Julia Eccleshare's Pick of the Month, September 2015 Best-selling Janet and Allan Ahlberg tell a deliciously spooky and ultimately joyful story about all the things skeletons get up in a dark dark night. The Big Skeleton, the Little Skeleton and the Dog Skeleton live in a dark dark cellar at the bottom of a dark dark house. One night they decide to go out and do a bit of frightening ….In fact, the Skeletons can’t frighten anyone! Instead, they visit some other skeletons and have a lot of fun playing in the park. Skeletons have never been better playmates than in this vividly illustrated laugh-out-loud picture book. ~ Julia Eccleshare


Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg

This is the first book in the FUNNYBONES series and introduces the skeletons - a big skeleton, a little skeleton and a dog skeleton. The skeletons venture out of their cellar one night to find someone to scare, but everyone is in bed so they amuse themselves by scaring each other and playing with the skeleton animals that live in the zoo.

About the Author

Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg

Allan Ahlberg was born in Croydon in 1938, but grew up in Oldbury, near Birmingham. From the age of twelve, his dream was to be a writer. Before he fulfilled his ambition, he tried his hand at a variety of other jobs including postman, grave digger, plumber's mate and teacher.

Janet Hall was born in 1944 and spent her childhood years in Leicester. She went to Sunderland to train to be a teacher. Allan Ahlberg had enrolled on the same course.

They married in 1969. Janet decided against teaching as a career and turned instead to graphic design. While Allan worked full time as a teacher, Janet's first work was published. She began urging Allan to write a text for her to illustrate. Hard though it is to believe, their submissions to publishers were met with rejection slips. Then, in one week, Penguin took The Old Joke Book, A & C Black took The Vanishment of Thomas Tull and Heinemann took Burglar Bill. The Ahlbergs had arrived and there would be no looking back. In 1978, Janet's artwork for Each Peach Pear Plum won her the Kate Greenaway Medal. The following year there were celebrations for an altogether different reason - the Ahlbergs' daughter, Jessica, was born.

By the 1980s, the Ahlbergs were big news, not just in Britain but all around the world. Their books were translated into twenty-one languages - from Catalan to Finnish; from Hebrew to Japanese. But it was The Jolly Postman, published in 1986, that brought Janet and Allan their greatest success. The book was five years in the making but the effort paid off with awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Emil/Kurt Maschler Award, and sales of over five Million copies worldwide for The Jolly Postman and its successors, The Jolly Christmas Postman and The Jolly Pocket Postman.


Janet and Allan Ahlberg fashioned their books from familiar ingredients: from folk and nursery tales; from the surrounding and activities of family life; from their own memories. Both Janet and Allan retained strong memories of growing up during the 1940's and 1950's. The affectionate references to that era in books like Peepo! and The Bear Nobody Wanted were not simply drawn from memory but meticulously researched. Janet Ahlberg was a collector of artefacts, from paintings to teapots to mechanical toys. As children, both Janet and Allan loved reading comics. Janet's favourite books included Rupert Bear, Winnie the Pooh and The Famous Five. Books were more of a rarity in Allan's childhood, although he does remember one very special story, The Bear Nobody Wanted!

Allan's stories and Janet's pictures demonstrate their ability to view the world through a child's eyes. In Allan's case, this perspective was sharpened by his years as a teacher. The couple's daughter, Jessica, helped to inspire some of the Ahlbergs' most successful books. Her passion for the Mothercare catalogue was one of the seeds for The Baby's Catalogue. A few years later, Allan watched a slightly older Jessica play with a stack of envelopes and he began to evolve The Jolly Postman.

A Special Way of Working

Allan once joked that it took him a day to do the words for a book and Janet six months to do the pictures, but this is to diminish the extent of his involvement. Generally, the initial idea for a book would be his, but he would quickly begin the process of 'playing table tennis' with Janet.

Often, Allan would pass visual suggestions and pictorial jokes on to Janet. Sometimes, he would provide her with a complete layout. Then it was Janet's turn to assess the book in its entirety; the balance and rhythm of words and pictures, pages and spreads. Janet would then produce detailed layouts and dummies to prove to herself, Allan and their publishers that the idea worked. Janet also often undertook detailed research for her illustrations. This might involve visiting a school to sketch children for Starting School, taking photographs for landscapes for Bye Bye Baby or referring to a 1939 Army and Navy Stores' catalogue for Peepo!

Allan once said that 'it is vital to be aware of the book as a physical, bound object - that you hold, with pages that turn'. Both he and Janet remained involved throughout the publishing process - overseeing everything from type size and binding through to cover layout and paper quality. The result of their involvement is books that really work for their intended audience in every way.

What Makes Janet and Allan Ahlberg So Special?

Janet and Allan Ahlberg are two of the most important names in children's publishing.

'The Ahlbergs belong with A. A. Milne and Lewis Caroll, to the greatest tradition of British children's books, having the kind of genius that can dominate an era' - Sunday Times

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Book Info


32 pages
Interest Age: From 3


Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg
More books by Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg


Puffin an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd

Publication date

3rd September 2015




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