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Val Biro

By February 1, 2014 9 Comments

You know when you look back at your days of being a little kid, some things stand out? Val Biro stands out for me.

I can’t have been more than 6 or 7, when our teacher told us that a man who wrote children’s books was coming to give us a talk. (My memory may not be what it should be so for anyone that was there that day and remembers it differently I apologise).

As we gathered in the Assembly Hall, all sat crossed legged on the floor I had no idea how much this man was about to effect the outcome of my life.

Val Biro entered, he talked about Gumdrop and I seem to remember he read one of the stories, his book about an old vintage car and showed us what were illustrations from the book, and he drew pictures. To put it more accurately he drew ‘me’ a picture. He drew Gumdrop, as quick as a flash and brilliantly. I was awestruck. I may not have known it at the time, after all, how many small kids actually know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but from that moment on I wanted to draw.

At the end, he packed us off with one of his Gumdrop books, and it was read to me for years and years and became my favourite and most prized book.

Fast forward to a time when I was sitting with my Grandad not many months after and he did exactly the same. He drew me a vintage car in one of his Architects pencils and I was gobsmacked. It was like magic. I spent the next years doodling, sketching, learning and drawing everything. My Nana and Grandad used to buy me The Beano, and Whizzer and Chips everytime I went to stay with them, and I would read it just like any kid, but I would also copy how the cartoonists would draw ears, hands, legs and all the things that bring them to life.

Now many years on I have my own son, nearly 4 years old and I found one of these old Gumdrop books in a box of my old books my mum gave me.

Now I read this to him every night, and guess what…. He now draws cars endlessly and is equally obsessed by them. So, Mr Val Biro, wherever you are, thank you. It is sad to think that perhaps you are no longer with us as this was an awfully long time ago and I imagine you were in your 40’s then. You will never have realised the impact you had on one small kid, and then his small kid, but I hope wherever you are that you are smiling at the thought of just how influential you, and old Gumdrop were.

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Update 10th February 2014

You are never going to believe this, but I got an email from Val Biro. He is alive and well, aged 92. I emailed a website created by Cameron Cunningham that is dedicated to Vals work. You can see that website by clicking here.

He clearly forwarded my email onto Val and I have just received the most beautiful email thanking me and inviting me and my son to go and visit Val at his home in Sussex. I suddenly feel 7 years old again.

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) says:

    Sweet story! I’m so happy that you were influenced positively by an author and the written word…and wonderful that you are paying that memory forward with your own son 🙂

    • Jim Adams Jim Adams says:

      Honestly Jacqueline, it is one of those moments when you can’t quite believe something is actually happening. It may be a small thing to many, but to meet anyone again who inspired you as a kid it is pretty darn amazing huh!

  • Susan Cooper says:

    I love this story James. You may, or may not, know that I write stories like this on my blog. This really struct me (again) as a great lesson on how we just never know how we may affect someone’s future. I’m not surprised that you heard from the one who inspired you. I am very excited for you and your pending visit.

    I had been a first grade teacher many years ago. There was a time that I had become very discouraged and wondered if all that I did really made a difference in kids lives. Then out of the blue, in succession, a few of my former students showed up thanking me for believing in them at a time they needed it the most. I’ve never forgotten that. To this day, I still offer a helping hand with the thought that, just maybe, it will be the one thing that person needs to move to success or greatness. Little by little we all can make a difference.

    • Jim Adams Jim Adams says:

      People who inspire others are the most important. Of that there is no doubt. I’ve been lucky and had many great teachers over the years. Now if only I could just have the same impact on my teenage daughter eh?

  • This story brought a big smile to my face and what an excellent ending. A few years ago my husband tracked down a book I had read over and over when I was little. It’s a treasure that I keep by my bedside. It’s amazing what prompts a life lesson.

    • Jim Adams Jim Adams says:

      Thanks Debra. You cant beat a good kids book can you. I love reading, but the ones that make my heart warm the most are still The Mr. Men books when I read them to my boy. Mr Muddle in particular. Can’t imagine why 😉

  • Jen Weaver says:

    What a great story. Finding your passion early in life is such a great gift! I look forward to reading about how your time with Val Biro went!

  • Pat Amsden says:

    I love this story. I remember drawing cartoon characters inspired by Archie and the gang during school but I never continued with drawing. In my son’s case Captain Underpants absolutely proved a turning point in his young life. His tutor introduced him to them and we had to buy ever book in the series from then on. We moved onto Harry Potter and many other fine books but Captain Underpants will always hold a fond spot in my heart.

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