Allan, Nicholas 1956–
Allan, Nicholas 1956–
Born on December 11, 1956, in Brighton, England; son of Frederick (an orthodontist) and Joan Allan. Education: Slade School of Fine Art, B.A., 1980; University of East Anglia, M.A., 1981.
Home—London, England. Agent—A.M. Heath & Co. Ltd., 6 Warwick Ct., London WC1R 5DJ, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Author and illustrator of books for children and young adults. Worked variously as a waiter, typist, and as a reader in a publisher's office.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED JUVENILES, EXCEPT WHERE NOTED
The Hefty Fairy, Hutchinson (London, England), 1989.
The Magic Lavatory, Hutchinson (London, England), 1990, published as The Thing that Ate Aunt Julia, Dial (New York, NY), 1991.
Jesus's Christmas Party, Hutchinson (London, England), 1991, Random House (New York, NY), 1992.
Hilltop Hospital, Hutchinson (London, England), 1992.
The Queen's Knickers, Hutchinson (London, England), 1993.
The First Time (young adult novel), Hutchinson (London, England), 1993.
The Pig's Book of Manners, Hutchinson (London, England), 1995.
Heaven, Hutchinson (London, England), 1996.
The Happy Princess: The Story of the Princess of Wales, Red Fox (London, England), 1997.
The Bird, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.
Stories from Hilltop Hospital, Hutchinson (London, England), 1997.
Jesus's Day Off, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.
Demon Teddy, Hutchinson (London, England), 1999.
Adios, Pajarito Adio!, Ediciones Ekaré (Caracas, Venezuela), 2000.
Fire Alert, Hutchinson (London, England), 2000.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Matthews, Red Fox (London, England), 2000.
Heart Trouble at Hilltop, Red Fox (London, England), 2000.
The Runaway Bed, Red Fox (London, England), 2000.
You're All Animals, Hutchinson (London, England), 2000.
Easter Bunnies, Red Fox (London, England), 2001.
The Big Event, Red Fox (London, England), 2001.
Cinderella's Bum, Hutchinson (London, England), 2002.
The Dove, Red Fox (London, England), 2004.
Where Willy Went, Hutchinson (London, England), 2004, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
More and More Rabbits, Red Fox (London, England), 2007.
Polly's Pet Shop, Hutchinson (London, England), 2008.
Will's Wheel Shop, Hutchinson (London, England), 2008.
Hilltop Hospital was adapted as a television series that has been broadcast in more than forty countries and was awarded a television prize from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2003; Jesus's Christmas Party and Where Willy Went were adapted into short animated films for German television, 2007.
Nicholas Allan once commented that his primary motivation for writing is revenge. Explaining his writing philosophy, the author noted that "writing fiction is often a form of revenge. In my own case, it's getting back at all those people—teachers, parents, priests—who inundate us with misinformation at an early age, leading to so much unhappiness and disillusionment later. So I've found the best way to shock is to write down things which are true." Allan explained that he especially enjoys writing children's books because they allow him to always side with children against adults. For example, The Magic Lavatory tells the story of Jeffrey, on orphan child who lives with his obsessive aunt. She will not allow Jeffrey to play in her tidy house, until one day when Jeffrey finds a "magic goo" that brings objects to life. When the aunt finds Jeffrey using the goo on her crockery, she pours it down the toilet, which comes to life. The toilet grows legs, has sharp teeth, and, beginning with the aunt, it eats everything in the house except Jeffrey, whom it befriends. They go out and create havoc until a reconciliation eventually occurs between aunt and child.
Allan's irreverence toward religion led him to write Jesus's Christmas Party, a book that tells the story of Jesus through the eyes of an innkeeper who only wants to get some sleep. Throughout the book, he is continuously awakened by late-night callers, including kings, shepherds, and angels. The author once noted that he originally "wrote the story to be blasphemous." To his surprise, it had the opposite effect, with several clergymen writing to Allan and asking his permission to read the book to their congregations.
Allan is deeply concerned with using his fiction to convey the truth to his young readers. He once explained that for him "all fiction writing, however apparently fanciful, is about making things more real, more truthful." He told CA: "The publications Where Willy Went and More and More Rabbits tell the truth about sex. Willy is a little sperm who goes on a long swimming race; More and More Rabbits is about Mr. and Mrs. Tail, who keep having babies and don't know how to stop. It is a counting book for four-year-olds."
The book Heaven continues this tradition by telling the story of Lily, who wakes up one day to find her dog, Dill, preparing for a trip to heaven. Allan uses the dialogue between Dill and Lily to speculate on what heaven will be like—and although Lily is sad after Dill's death, she comforts herself by remembering his vision of the afterlife.
In Jesus's Day Off the reader encounters Jesus on a day when things are not going well—following a failed attempt at walking on water, Jesus is taking a day off, feeling guilty about his failures. A conversation with his father (God) assures him that all is well and Jesus goes to sleep knowing that there is more good work to be done the next day and onward. Reviewing this work in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Elizabeth Bush noted that Jesus's Day Off has an "upbeat message" that will be "welcome in homes and Sunday schools where children are encouraged to know Jesus as a friend."
Allan explored another biblical tale in The Bird, which presents an alternate interpretation of the story of Noah's Ark. Characterizing Allan's interpretation of this classic tale as "creative and clever," School Library Journal contributor Martha Topol praised Allan for the "masterful" interplay between the text and artwork in the book.
In addition to children's books, Allan also published a young adult novel, The First Time, in which he charts Jake's struggles with adolescence. A lonely boy who has just moved to a new school, Jake is determined to master the rites of passage that he perceives will initiate his adolescence, including experimentation with sexual experiences, drugs, and alcohol. Although this book deals with Jake's sexual insecurities in explicit detail, drawing some criticism from reviewers, a critic for Junior Bookshelf noted that the work is a "skilful portrayal of how it feels to be growing up."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books for Keeps, January, 1996, Jill Bennet, review of The Queen's Knickers, p. 7; September, 1997, Clive Barnes, review of The Pig's Book of Manners; March, 1999, Ralph Gower, "Biblical Books for Children," pp. 3-7.
Books for Your Children, spring, 1994, J. Ousbey, review of The Queen's Knickers, p. 11.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1998, Elizabeth Bush, review of Jesus's Day Off, p. 125.
Horn Book Guide, fall, 1997, Anne Deifendeifer, review of Heaven, p. 257; spring, 1999, Anne St. John, review of Jesus's Day Off, p. 20.
Junior Bookshelf, February, 1994, review of The First Time, p. 38.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1997, review of The Bird, p. 1772.
Publishers Weekly, December 2, 1996, review of Heaven, p. 59; October 6, 1997, review of Jesus's Christmas Party, p. 58; March 2, 1998, review of The Bird, p. 67.
School Librarian, May, 1994, Susan Elkin, review of The First Time, p. 71; November, 1997, Lynda Jones, review of Stories from Hilltop Hospital, p. 184; autumn, 1999, Hazel Townson, review of Demon Teddy, p. 134.
School Library Journal, May, 1994, Brian Moses, review of The Queen's Knickers, p. 53; July, 1998, Martha Topol, review of The Bird, p. 64.
Nicholas Allan Home Page,http://www.nicholasallan.co.uk (December 23, 2007).