Do you really think we should encouraging small children to read dangerously subversive books like 'Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed' (illustrated by Neal Layton) published by Bloomsbury?
Michael: I think a lot of books for children are subversive. Look at 'Peter Rabbit'. His mother told that he would get eaten if he went into Mr McGregor's garden. What did he do? He went into Mr McGregor's garden. Did he get eaten? No. He had an adventure - but he was quick enough and clever enough to get away. Look at 'Jack and the Beanstalk'. His mother told him to sell the cow and he didn't. He got a load of old beans. Then he climbed up the beanstalk and robbed a giant. So, I don't think I've done anything new by being subversive.
What if it makes them start to question the questions they are being asked in school? And what if that causes lower test results?
Michael: I was brought up to question everything - even the questions I was being asked. I was also someone who had a lot of tests to do when I was at school - not as many as children have today, but quite a lot all the same. My brother too - and by learning how to question everything, we learnt how to see all round a topic. This helped us both do very well at school. So, anyone who reads this book will, I think, be helped to see 'all round' what's going on at school and in life. I think this will be very useful for them.
What is the moral of this book? How does it help young people develop into the productive citizens society need?
Michael: Ah - morals. Now that's a very interesting question. I think we are often bullied with that word. People on high like to tell us how we have got to be moral, but when we come to look at their lives, we discover that they are no more moral than we are. So I think if we are going to talk about morals we have to start with some kind of agreement that it should apply to all of us. In a way, that is part of what this book is about. Malcolm is struggling with the education system that is asking him to do things that he and his friend Crackersnacker are coming to realise aren't really helping them with life. What does help is the fact that Malcolm is good at thinking. Now, what could be more 'productive' than that?