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World Book Day author Tony Robinson talks children’s books

The Time Team presenter reveals his fondness for dressing in drag, the family his wishes he was part of and his famous former neighbour

Posted: 7 March 2013
by Alex Lloyd

Author Tony Robinson
Tony wishes he could go back in time and be the third Brother Grimm.

Actor and writer Tony Robinson, 66, is famed for his role at Baldrick in the TV series Blackadder and has presented archaeology show Time Team for almost 20 years. The London-born dad-of-two has also written several children's TV programmes and is an award-winning children’s author.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Half Magic by Edward Eager – it was the first time that I’d ever been immersed in a book that had a strong narrative and was funny, and I absolutely adored it. It opened my eyes to the potential of comic writing that nothing else did.

If you had to dress up as a character for World Book Day, who would it be?

I’ve always found drag incredibly liberating – the joy of walking around with a dress rather than trousers and with long, flowing hair is absolutely intoxicating. So I think I would dress up as any of those gorgeous little girls that Shirley Hughes draws so beautifully.

Which children’s book do you wish you’d written?

I’d have to go right back to the beginning for that one. I think virtually every profound children’s book that has been written in the last 100 years or so has been heavily influenced either consciously or subconsciously by the Brothers Grimm. I would have loved to have been the third brother.

Which children’s writer or illustrator do you admire most and why?

When I lived in Bristol in my late-twenties and my daughter was about eight, she brought home a book by Diana Wynne Jones which I thought was absolutely magical and I’d never read a children’s book which was so close to the way I felt about life and about fantasy. And when I discovered that Diana was a neighbour of ours it was one of the most exciting moments of my life.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?

I really enjoyed writing the character of Robin Hood in the TV series I wrote called Maid Marian and her Merry Men, because he was a complete inversion of the normal Robin Hood – he was vacuous, he was vain, he was a coward, but everybody assumed he was the leader of the gang because he looked so gorgeous and had immaculate hair. So I was making a social point and yet at the same time, the character was inherently very funny and made children laugh.

What are your top five children’s books of all time?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleHansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, Matilda by Roald Dahl and King of Kilba by Percy F. Westerman.

Tony Robinson’s Weird World Of Wonders: Funny Inventions by Tony Robinson and Del Thorpe is one of eight World Book Day 2013 books. Children can exchange their £1 voucher for a copy at a range of bookshops. Find out more at

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