from Flat StanleyUpload your character
Flat Stanley is the character that moved me as a child. This kid could do things that others couldn’t. He could slide under doors, become a kite or post himself to California. And what little boy wouldn’t want to be able to do all that?
This charming book, written by Jeff Brown (now a successful Hollywood story editor) was originally published in 1968 and first read to me over a glass of milk and a biscuit around 1977.
It all starts with a big notice board falling on Stanley Lambchop (the name still makes me smile) that flattens him whilst asleep in bed. His little brother Arthur finds him and makes his parents aware, whilst being taught some manners on the way. On finding their beloved elder son squashed, Mrs Lambchop musters up a beautifully understated ‘Heavens!’ then they all calmly have breakfast before going to see ‘Doctor Dan’.
Stanley gets the all clear (even though he’s still flat) and that is when the adventures start; much to the disdain of his jealous younger brother. Flat as a pancake, Stanley helps his Mum retrieve a ring that she’d dropped down a narrow metal grate as a crowd watches on.
Now, we all know how expensive flights to the States are. So to save on this, Mr Lambchop brings a big envelope home from work so Stanley can visit friends in California. After he’s been carefully folded into said envelope, with an egg sandwich, off Stanley goes; straight into the post-box. This sparked my nascent bonkers imagination off. I wanted to do that.
The final exciting chapter has Stanley helping to catch some sneaky art thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. What a lovely, simple and graphic idea.
Why did this book affect me so much? I honestly didn’t fully know why until I read it again to research this blog piece. Then I realised, that apart from the very visual concept and great illustrations there are so many cleverly interwoven messages as to rights, wrongs, Ps, Qs and how a little boy should act to his elders, siblings et al. Obviously, aged five, listening to my parents reading this to me, I didn’t figure out that I was being taught lessons, because they were hidden behind such fantastic(al?) imagery. I also didn’t notice these when I read it myself a few years later. But they must have gone in because I’m no ogre.
There was a bigger message in the book. Even after all the fame and semi-stardom, Stanley began to get picked on because he was different to everyone else. His little brother softened and got very upset by this and wanted to help him, so proceeded to pump him back to normal with a bicycle pump.
I remember having mixed feelings about this ending, because his life was full of adventure whilst he was only half-an-inch thick.
But the poor lad just wanted to be normal. And don’t we all?
Back to gallery
The 26 writing group has worked with The Story Museum as part of its 26 Characters exhibition. The group have produced a collection of poems, and couldn’t resist being part of the gallery of favourite characters.