Children's Laureate 2009-11
Anthony Browne was appointed the sixth Children's Laureate in 2009
I hope to encourage more children to discover and love reading, but I want to focus particularly on the appreciation of picture books, and the reading of both pictures and words. Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.'
Anthony Browne is an internationally acclaimed author and illustrator of children's books, with nearly 40 titles to his name. He creates strongly narrative watercolours that blend near-photographic realism with fantastical, surreal touches and ingenious visual puns. His skilful use of colour, pattern and background detail subtly conveys an exquisite empathy for his lonely and sensitive child protagonists (both human and ape). Gorillas feature in many of Anthony's books. He says, 'I am fascinated by them and the contrast they represent – their huge strength and gentleness. They're thought of as being very fierce creatures and they're not.'
Anthony was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire in 1946 and grew up near Halifax. Inspired by his father (who was a professional boxer for a short time and then a landlord, a school teacher and a soldier), he was interested in art and drawing from an early age. He says of his father, 'He was an unusual man – outwardly strong and confident, but also shy and sensitive – a bit like the gorillas I love to illustrate now. As well as drawing, he encouraged me to play a lot of sports, such as rugby and soccer and cricket. I was small for my age and I used to go to a fairly tough school – if I hadn’t been good at sports, I would probably have been bullied.'
When he left school, Anthony attended Leeds Art College, where he graduated with a graphic arts degree in 1967. Before focusing full-time on children's books, he worked as a medical illustrator for three years and illustrated greeting cards for Gordon Fraser in the UK for 15 years.
Anthony had his first book, Through the Magic Mirror, published in 1976, and a number of other successful books followed. Gorilla, published in 1983, won an unprecedented number of awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal, the Emil/Kurt Maschler Award, the New York Times Best Illustrated Book and The Boston Globe Book Award. It is now universally accepted as a classic. One of his best-loved characters is the chimp, Willy, who has appeared in Willy the Wimp, Willy the Champ, Willy and Hugh and Willy the Wizard.
His books have received many distinctions, including the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1983 for Gorilla and again in 1992 for Zoo. Gorilla (1983), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1988) and Voices in the Park (1998) all won the Kurt Maschler Emil Award. In 2000 he received the highest international honour for illustration, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, for his services to children's literature – the first British illustrator ever to win the prize. More recently he was Illustrator in Residence at the Tate. The Shape Game was based on his experiences of this time and was shortlisted for the 2004 Kate Greenaway Award. It has also been voted the Honor Book in the US Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature.
Anthony was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Education at Kingston University in 2005. His work has been widely exhibited and his books are published all over the world.
Anthony's time as Children's Laureate
During his time as Children's Laureate, Anthony promoted the importance of picture books and children's illustration. Anthony was keen to encourage children to be creative and use their imaginations, and to support the development of visual as well as verbal literacy.
The Shape Game
Anthony's Shape Game project, in partnership with Waterstone's and Walker Books, brought together 45 writers, artists, illustrators and celebrities including Quentin Blake, Emma Thompson, Shirley Hughes and Harry Hill to create artwork to raise money for children's charity Rainbow Trust, as well as to promote the importance of creativity and imagination. The project resulted in a new book, Play the Shape Game as well as resources for teachers and families. Find out more about the Shape Game project.
Through the Magic Mirror
To celebrate Anthony's career as as picture book author and illustrator, Seven Stories organised a retrospective exhibition of Anthony's work, Through the Magic Mirror: The World of Anthony Browne as well as The Picture Book Project - an education project inspired by Anthony's books in partnership with Action for Children. Find out more about the exhibition and project.
The Booktrust Best New Illustrators Award
As judge and spokesperson for the 2011 Booktrust Best New Illustrators Award, Anthony helped to promote and support emerging children's illustration talent. Find out more about the Booktrust Best New Illustrators.
Bear's Magic Pencil
The result of a competition encouraging children to draw as a way of making stories, this book perfectly illustrates how a pencil can create narrative paths.
Me and You
The resolution of this story about a girl and three bears will challenge perceptions and provoke much thought in those who read it.
Play the Shape Game
Celebrities, authors and illustrators join the Children's Laureate Anthony Browne in this fun novelty book encouraging children to be creative and use their imaginations.
Willy the Wimp
Willy wouldn't hurt a fly. The local bullies call him Willy the Wimp, which he does not like at all.