Briggs, Raymond 1934–
Briggs, Raymond 1934–
(Raymond Redvers Briggs)
Born January 18, 1934, in London, England; son of Ernest Redvers (in milk delivery) and Ethel Briggs; married Jean Taprell Clark (a painter), 1963 (died, 1973); partner's name Liz (a retired-teacher). Education: Attended Wimbledon School of Art, 1949-53; received National Diploma in Design, 1953; attended Slade School of Fine Art, 1955-57; University of London, D.F.A., 1957. Politics: "Green." Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening, growing fruit, modern jazz, secondhand bookshops.
Home and office—Weston, Underhill Lane, Westmeston, Hassocks, Sussex BN6 8XG, England.
Illustrator and author of books for children, beginning 1957. Brighton Polytechnic, Sussex, England, part-time lecturer in illustration, 1961-87; teacher at Slade School of Fine Art and Central Art School. Set designer and playwright. Member of British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, beginning 1982. Military service: British Army, 1953-55.
Chartered Society of Designers (fellow), Society of Industrial Artists, Dairy Farmer's Association, Groucho Club.
British Library Association Kate Greenaway Medal, commendation, 1964, for Fee Fi Fo Fum, winner, 1966, for Mother Goose Treasury, and 1973, for Father Christmas, and high commendation, 1978, for The Snowman; Spring Book Festival Picture Book honor, Book World, 1970, for The Elephant and the Bad Baby; Children's Book Showcase, Children's Book Council, 1974, for Father Christmas; Art Books for Children citations, Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Public Library, 1975, for Father Christmas, and 1979, for The Snowman; Francis Williams Illustration Awards, British Book Trust, 1977, for Father Christmas, and 1982, for The Snowman; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Illustration, Premio Critici in Erba, Bologna Book Fair, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and Dutch Silver Pen Award, all 1979, and Redbook Award, 1986, all for The Snowman; Other Award, Children's Rights Workshop, 1982, for When the Wind Blows; British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Children's Program—Drama, 1982, and Academy Award nomination for best animated short film, 1982, both for The Snowman; most outstanding radio program, Broadcasting Press Guild, 1983, for When the Wind Blows.
The Strange House, Hamish Hamilton (London England), 1961.
Midnight Adventure, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1961.
Ring-a-Ring o' Roses (verse), Coward (New York, NY), 1962.
Sledges to the Rescue, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1963.
(Editor) The White Land: A Picture Book of Traditional Rhymes and Verses, Coward (New York, NY), 1963.
Fee Fi Fo Fum: A Picture Book of Nursery Rhymes, Coward (New York, NY), 1964.
(Editor) The Mother Goose Treasury, Coward (New York, NY), 1966.
Jim and the Beanstalk, Coward (New York, NY), 1970.
Father Christmas, Coward (New York, NY), 1973.
Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, Coward (New York, NY), 1975.
Fungus the Bogeyman, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1977.
Gentleman Jim, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1980.
When the Wind Blows, Schocken (New York, NY), 1982, reprinted, Penguin (London, England), 2005.
Fungus the Bogeyman Plop-up Book, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1982.
The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1984.
Unlucky Wally, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1987.
The Bear, Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
The Man, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.
Ethel and Ernest, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
Ivor the Invisible, 4 Books (London, England), 2001.
The Puddleman, Cape (London, England), 2004.
The Snowman, Random House (New York, NY), 1978, reprinted, Dragonfly (New York, NY), 2006.
Building the Snowman, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1985.
Dressing Up, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1985.
Walking in the Air, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1985.
The Party, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1985.
The Snowman Pop-up, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986.
The Snowman Storybook, Random House (New York, NY), 1990.
The Snowman Flap Book, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.
The Snowman Tell-the-Time Book, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991.
The Snowman: Things to Touch and Feel, See and Sniff, Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
The Snowman: A Fun-shaped Play Book, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.
(With others) Julian Sorell Huxley, Wonderful World of Life, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1958.
Ruth Manning-Sanders, Peter and the Piskies, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1958, Roy (New York, NY), 1966.
Barbara Ker Wilson, The Wonderful Cornet, 1958.
A. Stephen Tring, Peter's Busy Day, 1959.
Alfred Leo Duggan, Look at Castles, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1960, published as The Castle Book, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1961.
Alfred Leo Duggan, Arches and Spires, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1961, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1962.
Meriol Trevor, William's Wild Day Out, 1963.
Jacynth Hope-Simpson, editor, The Hamish Hamilton Book of Myths and Legends, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1964.
William Mayne, Whistling Rufus, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1964, Dutton (New York, NY), 1965.
Elfrida Vipont, Stevie, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1965.
Ruth Manning-Sanders, editor, Hamish Hamilton Book of Magical Beasts, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1965, published as A Book of Magical Beasts, T. Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1970.
James Aldridge, The Flying Nineteen, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1966.
Mabel Esther Allan, The Way over Windle, Methuen (London, England), 1966.
Bruce Carter (pseudonym of Richard Alexander Hough), Jimmy Murphy and the White Duesenberg, Coward (New York, NY), 1968.
Bruce Carter, Nuvolari and the Alfa Romeo, Coward (New York, NY), 1968.
Nicholas Fisk, Lindbergh: The Lone Flier, Coward (New York, NY), 1968.
Nicholas Fisk, Richthofen: The Red Baron, Coward (New York, NY), 1968.
William Mayne, editor, The Hamish Hamilton Book of Giants, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1968, published as William Mayne's Book of Giants, Dutton (New York, NY), 1969.
Michael Brown, Shackelton's Epic Voyage, Coward (New York, NY), 1969.
Elfrida Vipont, The Elephant and the Bad Baby, Coward (New York, NY), 1969.
Showell Styles, First up Everest, Coward (New York, NY), 1969.
James Reeves, Christmas Book, Dutton (New York, NY), 1970.
Ian Serraillier, The Tale of Three Landlubbers, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1970, Coward (New York, NY), 1971.
Virginia Haviland, editor, The Fairy Tale Treasury, Coward (New York, NY), 1972.
Ruth Manning-Sanders, editor, Festivals, Heinemann (London, England), 1972, Dutton (New York, NY), 1973.
James Reeves, The Forbidden Forest, Heinemann (London, England), 1973.
(With Mitsumasa Anno) All in a Day, Philomel (New York, NY), 1986.
Allan Ahlberg, The Adventures of Bert, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, (New York, NY), 2001.
Allan Ahlberg, A Bit More Bert, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, (New York, NY), 2002.
Also illustrator of a book of Cornish fairy stories for Oxford University Press, 1957.
The Snowman (animated film), TV Cartoons, 1982.
When the Wind Blows (stage play; produced in London, England, 1983, then New York, NY, 1988), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1983.
When the Wind Blows (radio play; based on his play), British Broadcasting Corp., 1983.
Gentleman Jim (stage play), produced in Nottingham, England, 1985.
When the Wind Blows (animated film; based on his play), TV Cartoons/Meltdown Productions, 1987.
Father Christmas (animated film), 1991.
The Bear (animated film), 1999.
Ivor the Invisible (animated film), 2001.
Fungus the Bogeyman (animated film), 2004.
The Snowman and Father Christmas were released on DVD in 1993 and 1997 respectively, and were released together on DVD, with material from Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, in 1998.
Michelle Knudsen and Maggie Downer adapted The Snowman as Raymond Briggs' The Snowman, Random House, 2003.
Raymond Briggs is an award-winning author and illustrator of popular books for children as well as darkly satirical works for adults. He has also drawn hundreds of pictures for collections of traditional nursery rhymes and fairy tales, revisited old favorites like "Jack and the Beanstalk," and written his own award-winning stories. One of these, Fungus the Bogeyman, is a cartoon-style look at a repulsive yet humane imaginary world full of filth and wordplay. Another, The Snowman, is a wordless story, poignant and more softly illustrated, while When the Wind Blows, a devastating, understated cartoon-style work geared for adults, portrays a middle-aged working-class couple before, during, and after a nuclear war. The characters and settings in each of Briggs's books often reflect elements of the author/illustrator's past.
Briggs had "an uneventful but happy childhood and home life," as he told Lee Bennett Hopkins in Books Are by People. "My parents were happily married. Their faces turn up constantly in my illustrations but quite unconsciously." "I hated school for there was too much emphasis on teamwork, competition, sports, science, and mathematics—all the opposite interests of an ‘arty’ type," he recalled of his experiences as a student at the Rutlish School for Boys. Briggs drew constantly as a child, and as an only child he was somewhat indulged by his parents. When, at age fifteen, he said he would like to study art, he did not receive the usual parental objection "that I didn't want to learn a useful trade," he later explained in a Publishers Weekly interview. As Briggs revealed in Designer, the principal of the school Briggs hoped to attend was dismayed that the boy wanted to be a cartoonist, however. "He told me it wasn't an occupation for gentlemen. It was a great shock to realise that these things weren't respectable. So I changed to painting." As the author/illustrator later told Nicholas Wroe in the London Guardian, "when you're only fifteen and the big man with a beard tells you what to do, you generally do it."
In his painting courses Briggs did a great deal of figure drawing, which he recommends as "absolutely perfect training for an illustrator, in that you learnt about tone and colour, and figure composition in general." It was a very traditional art education, similar to that of Renaissance painters: abstract art was not taught, and cartooning and illustration were scorned as too "commercial." Briggs continued to practice illustration in his spare time anyway. Ultimately, when he realized that painting was not really his strength and was unprofitable as well, he started accepting illustration assignments from publishers and advertising agencies.
"Out of all the work I did, I must have suited the children's book world best," Briggs remarked in Designer, "because that was the sort of work that increasingly came in. I didn't choose it; it chose me. I entered the field at a very good time, when there were some marvelous books being written and I was lucky enough to get some to illustrate." The Mother Goose Treasury, for which Briggs did nearly nine hundred pictures, was one example. Reviewers praised it for its completeness and for Briggs's exuberant illustrations, and in addition he received the Kate Greenaway Medal for his work. He found most other illustration projects "appalling," however, and "and it was this that made me start writing," he maintained. "I could see simple grammatical faults even, and felt that if publishers were willing to publish tripe like that, I couldn't do worse. I wrote two or three little stories, and showed the first one to the editor just to get his advice—to see if he thought I might ever write anything. To my absolute amazement he said he'd publish it. To me, that just showed the standard. I thought it was staggering that someone who knew nothing about writing could make a first attempt and have it published, just like that." Although he has continued to write original stories, Briggs has also illustrated dozens of other story collections, as well as texts by writers such as Allan Ahlberg, Bruce Carter, and Elfrida Vipont.
Father Christmas was one of Briggs's first original books to become widely popular. Instead of the usual jolly or saintly image of Saint Nick, Briggs presents a grumbling but dutiful old fellow with very human foibles. Not fond of winter, Father Christmas dreams of a beach holiday and complains about "blooming chimneys" and "blooming soot." As Briggs observed in Junior Bookshelf, "I think the character of Father Christmas is very much based on my father," who delivered milk early each morning. "The jobs are similar and they both grumble a lot in a fairly humorous way." In the Guardian, Briggs described himself as a "miserable git," a fact that suggests that his depiction of "Santa Claus as an over-worked curmudgeon," as Guardian critic Nicholas Wroe characterized Saint Nick, also works the illustrator's own personality into the story. Briggs also drew on his own past for details of Father Christmas's house and other aspects of his life, sometimes unconsciously. Thirty years after Father Christmas was published, the characters were featured on stamps for the Royal Mail in the United Kingdom.
A few years after Father Christmas came Fungus the Bogeyman, Briggs's story about and descriptive guide to the mucky lives of bogeys, creatures that revel in filth and rise each night to frighten humans. Fungus is a happily married bogey who wonders about the meaning of his life and wistfully dreams of a day when bogeys and humans will get along with one other.
The Snowman, published the year after Fungus the Bogeyman, is a very different book, but like the earlier story it also draws on Briggs's life. The artist used his own house and garden as the setting for his gentle, loving tale. Unlike Fungus the Bogeyman, The Snowman is a wholesome, wordless story describing how a snowman comes to life and befriends the boy who made it. During a magical night, the snowman shares the human world and the world of snow people with the boy. In the morning the boy sadly discovers that his friend has mostly melted away. Briggs conveys his story without words, and decided to use colored pencil rather than pen and watercolor to illustrate the book. "I wanted to avoid the abrupt change that takes place when a brutal black pen line is scratched on top of a quiet pencil drawing," he explained of this decision during his acceptance speech for the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. In addition to being a great success with readers, The Snowman has also been adapted for stage and screen. Images from the book have also made their way to various products and memorabilia, as well as into Briggs's more recent books.
Like The Snowman, The Bear is a story of friendship and loss. Young Tilly becomes friends with an enormous polar bear who comes to stay with her at night and play during the day. Her new friend's bear habits are frustrating to Tilly, however, and she realizes that bears and humans cannot share a house after all. The tale ends as Bear trudges into the arctic wilderness where he belongs and dives into the water "whose chill one can almost feel—an indication of Briggs's power to draw readers into his pictorial storytelling," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Noting the book's cartoon-strip feel, an Economist writer noted that The Bear, like many of Briggs's titles, "must be all the more enthralling to children for seeming like that." In Booklist, Annie Ayres dubbed the book a "magical winter escapade."
Briggs employs a different storytelling strategy with The Man. Instead of using very few words, as in The Bear, or no words at all, as in The Snowman, he emphasizes the dialogue between young John and the seven-inch-tall man the boy discovers in his room one night. The tiny man causes a lot of trouble between John and his parents, demands food but complains about everything John brings him, and generally makes a mess out of John's life. But as John and the man begin to understand each other, themes such as self-image, religion, diversity, and philosophy are all explored through their conversations. "Busy panel art drolly portrays the contentious rapport between John and Man," explained a Publishers Weekly contributor. Writing in Booklist, Susan Dove Lempke recommended the title for an audience older than the usual picture-book crowd, writing that they "will appreciate the passionate debate between the characters and the earthy humor Briggs works in." Noting that The Man addresses the most universal question "What does it mean to be a human?" Peter F. Neumeyer wrote in Horn Book that, rather than using a traditional narrative, Briggs combines sequential-paneled art and dialogue to relay his story. The author/illustrator "employs the limitations and advantages of this genre with astonishing virtuosity and to remarkable effect," Neumeyer added.
Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age is the tale of a search for soft trousers. Ug does not understand why he must wear stone pants or kick a stone ball in sports. He sees things in the world—trees being made of wood, for instance—that his peers and parents do not seem to understand. "Beneath the satiric barbs there's a touch of poignancy to this tale," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Shelley B. Sutherland wrote: "It is a deceptively simple and wise look at some potentially weighty issues, done with a deft, sure, and amusingly light touch."
The idea for The Puddleman was inspired by Briggs's relationship with the grandchild of his partner, Liz. The little girl stated her belief that puddles are a substance of their own, and are not made from anything else. The main character of The Puddleman, Tom, puts on his rain boots to go out for a walk with his grandfather. Even though it has not rained lately, Tom insists that the puddles will be there. The boy is proven right when the invisible Puddleman places puddles carefully in Tom's path. "Briggs uses his signature comic-strip format to dramatize each bit of dialogue with panache," wrote Joanna Rudge Long in a review of The Puddleman for Horn Book. Kat Kan, writing in Booklist, dubbed the book a "a charmingly wacky tale."
Originally intended for adults, When the Wind Blows is Briggs's cartoon-style comment on how unprepared ordinary people are to deal with nuclear war. Its two characters are a retired couple living in the rural Britain. They survived the bombing of England during World War II, and they ignorantly expect the next war to be much the same. They build a useless bomb shelter, following government guidelines, and cheerily go on with life after the bomb drops, wondering why the water is eventually shut off and nothing comes in on the radio. Briggs got the idea for the book when he saw a documentary on the effects of nuclear war. "I imagined what would actually happen if some ordinary people were told there would be war in three days' time," he told Bart Mills in a Los Angeles Times interview. Several critics judged When the Wind Blows too grim for young readers, and Briggs agreed. "We found it went into the children's bookshops and started selling there too, to my surprise," the author explained to Times Educational Supplement interview Richard North.
Like When the Wind Blows, The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman takes on serious issues through its focus on the Falklands war, and Ethel and Ernest depicts the working-class life of Briggs's parents. Much of the first half of Briggs's life is recorded in that book, and these images clearly show the influences his childhood had on his work. Discussing the way Briggs's parents are depicted in Ethel and Ernest, a critic wrote on the British Council Contemporary Writers Web site that, "in their aspirations, stoicism, arguments and care for each other, we overhear typical British attitudes to class, sex, education and party politics." Gordon Flagg, writing for Booklist, noted that Briggs's drawings "well evoke period and milieu, and his spot-on dialogue nails the characters." A Publishers Weekly also commented on the dialogue in Ethel and Ernest, calling it "heartbreakingly accurate," and "the pictures cinematic in their conveyance of delight and drama."
Briggs does not aim his books specifically at children or at adults. "Once children can read, I don't see this huge gulf between them and grown-ups," he commented in Design Week. "I just write and draw to please myself and feel it ought to please others," Briggs noted in Publishers Weekly. His work appeals to all ages, in fact. His more adult-oriented books reach younger readers with their cartoon style, and the so-called children's books often discuss adult issues. Despite his success as an illustrator, Briggs has nonetheless expressed the wish that he were a "proper writer, having to do only the words," as he wrote in the Guardian. "Proper writers can start at the beginning, go on till they get to the end, then stop and hand it in," he explained. However, he added, there advantages to the sequential art format he employs. Discussing Ethel and Ernest, he noted: "It is almost a mini-biography and even contains social history yet there is not a word of narration, only speech bubbles. It is the thing I am most pleased about in these books."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 10, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, Books Are by People, Citation Press, 1969.
Jones, Nicolette, Blooming Books, J. Cape (London, England), 2003.
Kilborn, Richard, The Multi-Media Melting Pot: Marketing "When the Wind Blows," Comedia, 1986.
Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, St. Martin's (Detroit, MI), 1983.
Booklist, February 1, 1995, Annie Ayres, review of The Bear, p. 1008; February 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Man, p. 931; September 15, 1999, Gordon Flagg, review of Ethel and Ernest, p. 212; September 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of The Adventures of Bert, p. 112; November 1, 2002, Julie Cummins, review of A Bit More Bert, p. 502; November 15, 2002, Michael Cart, review of Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age, p. 600; November 1, 2006, Kat Kan, review of The Puddleman, p. 58; February 15, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of Collected Poems for Children, p. 75.
Bookseller, October 18, 2002, "Illustration Show," p. 34; July 18, 2003, "Briggs' Blooming Books," p. 22.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1995, review of The Bear, p. 229; February, 1996, review of The Man, p. 185; January, 2003, review of Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age, p. 190.
Designer, October, 1982, review of The Snowman, pp. 8-9.
Design Week, September 6, 2001, Nick Smurthwaite, "Set in Stone," p. 56; November 4, 2004, "After a Thirty-Year Hiatus, Cartoonist Raymond Briggs Has Resurrected His Father Christmas Character on a Series of Festive Stamps for Royal Mail," p. 5.
Economist, November 26, 1994, review of The Bear, p. 101.
Guardian (London, England), November 2, 2002, Raymond Briggs, "Why I'd Like to Be a Proper Author"; December 18, 2004, Nicholas Wroe, "Bloomin' Christmas."
Horn Book, February, 1980, Raymond Briggs, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award acceptance speech, p. 96; March-April, 1995, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of The Bear, p. 182; May-June, 1996, Peter F. Neumeyer, review of The Man, p. 315; September-October, 2002, Martha V. Parravano, review of A Bit More Bert, p. 548; November-December, 2002, Sarah Ellis, review of Ug, p. 734; January, 2003, review of A Bit More Bert, p. 12; November-December, 2006, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Puddleman, p. 697.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1974, Raymond Briggs, "That Blooming Book," pp. 195-196.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Ug, p. 1385; October 15, 2006, review of The Puddleman, p. 1066.
Library Journal, September 15, 1999, Stephen Weiner, review of Ethel and Ernest, p. 72.
Lion and the Unicorn, Volume 7-8, 1983-84, Suzanne Rahn, "Beneath the Surface with Fungus the Bogeyman."
Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1982, Bart Mills, "Author! Author! Wind Blowing Raymond Briggs' Way," Part V, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, November 5, 1973, Jean P. Mercier, interview with Briggs, p. 12; November 14, 1994, review of The Bear, p. 66; October 2, 1995, review of The Man, p. 73; March 15, 1999, review of The Sand Children, p. 56; June 28, 1999, review of All in a Day, p. 81; August 9, 1999, review of Ethel and Ernest, p. 328.
School Library Journal, October, 2002, Shelley B. Sutherland, review of Ug, p. 158; November, 2002, Teri Markson, review of A Bit More Bert, p. 110; March, 2007, Kirsten Cutler, review of Collected Poems for Children, p. 196.
Signal, January, 1979, Elaine Moss, "Raymond Briggs: On British Attitudes to the Strip Cartoon and Children's-Book Illustration," p. 28.
Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), December 3, 2006, "Snowman Writer Is Fizzing," p. 3.
Time, October 25, 1999, Steven Henry Madoff, review of Ethel and Ernest, p. 130.
Times Educational Supplement, June 11, 1982, Richard North, "Cartoon Apocalypse," p. 41; August 21, 1992, review of The Man, p. 20; October 8, 1998, Nicolette Jones, review of Under the Snow, p. D10; October 31, 2003, Jane Doonan, "Portrait of a Comic Genius," p. 18.
British Council Contemporary Writers Web site,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (November 19, 2007), "Raymond Briggs."
British Council Magic Pencil Web site,http://magicpencil.britishcouncil.org/ (November 19, 2007), "Raymond Briggs."
Snowman Web site,http://www.thesnowman.co.uk/ (November 19, 2007).