Behaving and misbehaving

A scene from The Beano. Children cause mayhem on a frozen pond

Go deeper: Behaving and misbehaving in children’s books

Article by:
Andy Stanton, consultant: M O Grenby

How much fun would a story be if the characters were always good? Explore the role of mischief in storytelling, from medieval to modern-day children’s books.

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Quentin Blake's illustration of Roald Dahl's Matila sitting on a box and surrounded by books

Themed book list: Behaving and misbehaving

Have you met Roald Dahl’s brave Matilda and the Bash Street Kids of The Beano? What about naughty Jacky Jingle or Beatrix Potter’s mischievous characters?

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a lady in a artists studio working on a picture

Viviane Schwarz: How to develop a character

What do you think an angry shape would look like? How would your angry shape turn into a character in a story? In this video, writer and illustrator Viviane Schwarz shows us some unusual techniques for coming up with your characters.

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doodles on cut out pieces of paper on a workbench

Viviane Schwarz: How to find out more about your character

You know what your characters look like, but to write a story you need to find out who they are. Do they have a favourite food? What are they afraid of? Viviane Schwarz talks us through her simple steps for getting to know your characters.

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Pastels arranged in a circle

Viviane Schwarz: Making a story

Once you’ve got your characters, you can get started on your story. In this clip Viviane Schwarz shows us how she creates an illustration, with lots of colour and collage. Why not grab some scraps of paper and a paintbrush, and see where your imagination takes you?

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Further themes

All activities

Get creative with activities for children of all ages. Invent your own superhero, make a pop-up book and much more.

Animals that talk

From fantastical medieval beasts to Winnie the Pooh and Varjak Paw, meet the wonderful creatures that bring children’s books to life.

Behaving and misbehaving

From strict behaviour manuals to rebellious rule-breakers, explore the morals and mischief at the heart of children’s books.

Big and small

From books that fit in the palm of your hand to Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant, find out how children’s writing plays with ideas of size and scale.

Changing the world

From campaigns against slavery to climate change resistance, discover the power of children’s books to fight for a better world.

Fairy tales and folktales

From Red Riding Hood to Hua Mulan, from Anancy to Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, read ancient stories and playful new tales from around the world.

Fear

Face your fears by exploring the most spine-tingling stories, from dark and enchanting fairy tales to Coraline and Haunted House.

Food

From Alice in Wonderland’s bottles to baby bear’s perfect porridge, discover the temptations of food in children’s books.

Home and belonging

How do children’s books explore questions of home, family and belonging? Delve into books by Jacqueline Wilson, Errol Lloyd and many more.

Interviews

Learn the secrets of writers and artists from Jacqueline Wilson to Zanib Mian, with these exclusive interviews and tips for budding authors.

Journeys

Set off on magical journeys or real voyages of migration, from Gulliver’s Travels and Treasure Island to Sarah Garland’s Azzi in Between.

Go deeper

Explore our themes in more detail and find more fascinating facts in these illustrated articles by scholars and children’s authors.

Magic and fantasy

Free your imagination with tales of mystery and magic, from medieval phoenixes to Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.

Non-fiction

Find out how children’s books use funny jokes, strange secrets and pictures to give you information about people, places, science and history.

Poetry, nursery rhymes and wordplay

From rude and ridiculous rhymes to inspiring verses and poems, explore centuries of nonsense, poetry and wordplay for children.

Pop-up and moveable books

From the earliest noisy books to brilliant modern pop-ups, find out how pages spring to life at the pull of a flap or tab.

School stories and reading tools

From 2,000-year-old homework to the latest classroom antics, discover books full of brainboxes, weird teachers and troublemakers.