Wendell’s Workshop by Chris Riddell was one of my son’s favourite books when he was about four. He made me read it to him time after time after time. Recently, aged six, he has rediscovered it, and is now reading it to himself with equal enthusiasm. It seems to have lost none of its charm.
We are huge fans of Chris Riddell in our house, having read a cornucopia of his books from those for pre schoolers through to the series he writes and illustrates for older children, a fantasy sequence about a young boy called Twig.
In this, short picture book, Wendell is a mouse with a flair for invention. He tinkers day and night in his workshop, creating all manner of bonkers machines.
If his inventions don’t make the grade, he throws them on a huge scrap yard outside his house where they are left to rot.
One day Wendell surpasses himself by making the Wendelbot, a giant machine that does everything. The only problem is that the Wendelbot is so efficient that Wendell has rendered himself surplus to requirement and ends up on the scrap heap himself. What can Wendell do to stop the monster he has created?
This is rather like a pre school version of Terminator, but with excessively cute drawings and a real tongue in cheek sense of humour that rescues it’s darker, more macabre leanings. Not that there is anything wrong with darker, more macabre leanings, even in picture books.
The illustrations, in Riddell’s unique and instantly recognisable style are what make this book such a joy. Even the end plates of the book are made to look like fantastic blue prints for Wendell’s inventions. The devil really is in the detail here, and my son and I used to spend happy hours looking at and discussing the uses of all of Wendell’s inventions.
This is a wonderful book which holds many happy memories for me and my son. It is one I shall treasure and keep on the shelves to give to him when he hopefully, has children of his own to share it with.
It is suitable for boys and girls from the ages of about 3-7. If you wanted to introduce it in school in line with a topic, it would work quite well as a book about the environment and recycling, or anything to do with robots and inventions.