Allen, Jonathan 1957-
Allen, Jonathan 1957-
(Jonathan Dean Allen)
Born February 17, 1957, in Luton, England; two children. Education: Attended Impington Village College, and Cambridge College of Arts and Technology; St. Martin's College of Art, B.A. (graphic arts).
Home and office—Acorn Cottage, South St., Lillington, NR Royston, Hertfordshire SG8 0QR, England.
Children's book author and illustrator.
Virginia Young Readers Award, 1989, for illustrations in The Great White Man-Eating Shark by Margaret Mahy.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED PICTURE BOOKS
A Bad Case of Animal Nonsense (poems), David Godine (Boston, MA), 1981, reprinted, 1997.
A Pocketful of Painful Puns and Poems, Dent (London, England), 1983.
Guthrie Comes Clean, Dent (London, England), 1984.
My Cat, Dial (New York, NY), 1984.
My Dog, Macmillan (London, England), 1987, Gareth Stevens (Milwaukee, WI), 1989.
Mucky Moose, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1990.
Keep Fit Canaries, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
Who's at the Door?, Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Sweetie, Macmillan (London, England), 1994.
Two by Two by Two, Orion Children's Books (London, England), 1994, Dial (New York, NY), 1995.
Chicken Licken: A Wickedly Funny Lift-the-Flap Book, Golden (New York, NY), 1996.
Fowl Play, Orion Children's Books (London, England), 1996.
Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty!, Dial (New York, NY), 1997.
Wolf Academy, Orchard Books (London, England), 1997.
Jonathan Allen Picture Book, Orchard Books (London, England), 1997.
Flying Squad, Yearling (London, England), 1998.
The Ugly Duckling: A Fiendishly Funny Flap Book, Corgi (London, England), 1999.
Don't Wake the Baby!: An Interactive Book with Sounds, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
Monster Postman, Orchard Books (London, England), 2000.
And Pigs Might Fly, Orchard Books (London, England), 2001.
The King of the Birds, Orchard Books (London, England), 2001.
The Little Red Hen: A Deliciously Funny Flap Book, Trafalgar (New York, NY), 2003.
"I'm Not Cute!", Boxer (St. Albans, England), 2005, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.
Banana!, Boxer Books (London, England), 2006.
"WIZARD GRIMWEED" SERIES
B.I.G. Trouble, Orchard Books (London, England), 1993.
Potion Commotion, Orchard Books (London, England), 1993.
The Funniest Man in the World, Orchard Books (London, England), 1994.
Nose Grows, Orchard Books (London, England), 1994.
The Witch Who Couldn't Spell, Orchard Books (London, England), 1996.
Dragon Dramatics, Orchard Books (London, England), 1996.
"FRED CAT" BOARD-BOOK SERIES
Dressing Up, Orchard Books (London, England), 1997.
My Noisy Toys, Orchard Books (London, England), 1997.
Weather and Me, Orchard Books (London, England), 1997.
What My Friends Say, Orchard Books (London, England), 1997.
"JONATHAN ALLEN BOARD BOOKS" SERIES
Purple Sock, Pink Sock, Orchard Books (London, England), Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1992.
Big Owl, Little Towel, Orchard Books (London, England), Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1992.
One with a Bun, Orchard Books (London, England), Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1992.
Up the Steps, Down the Slide, Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1992.
Jeremy Strong, Trouble with Animals, Thomas Y. Crowell (New York, NY), 1980.
(With John Carter) Gyles Brandreth, The Big Book of Silly Riddles, Sterling (New York, NY), 1982.
David Henry Wilson, There's a Wolf in My Pudding, Dent (London, England), 1986.
David Henry Wilson, Yucky Ducky, Dent (London, England), 1988.
David Henry Wilson, Gander of the Yard, Dent (London, England), 1989.
Margaret Mahy, The Great White Man-Eating Shark, Dial (New York, NY), 1990.
Gillian Osband, Boysie's Kitten, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.
Gillian Osband, Boysie's First Birthday, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.
David Henry Wilson, Gideon Gander Solves the World's Greatest Mysteries, Piper (London, England), 1993.
Margaret Mahy, The Three-Legged Cat, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.
Frank O'Rourke, Burton and Stanley, David Godine (Boston, MA), 1993.
Stephen Wyllie, Red Dragon, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.
Corinne Mellor, Clark the Toothless Shark, Western Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Rose Impey, Monster and Frog Get Fit, Collins (London, England), 1994.
Rose Impey, Monster's Terrible Toothache, Collins (London, England), 1994.
Rose Impey, Monster and Frog, Collins (London, England), 1994.
Rose Impey, Monster and Frog Mind the Baby, Collins (London, England), 1994.
Rose Impey, Monster and Frog at Sea, Collins (London, England), 1994.
Stephen Wyllie, Bear Buys a Car, Dial (New York, NY), 1995.
Corinne Mellor, Bruce the Balding Moose, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.
Bill Grossman, The Bear Whose Bones Were Jezebel Jones, Dial (New York, NY), 1997.
Margaret Mahy, Beaten by a Balloon, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.
Margaret Mahy, Simply Delicious!, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Kara May, Joe Lion's Big Boots, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 2000.
Alan Brown, I Am a Dog, Kane/Miller (La Jolla, CA), 2002.
Pat Thomson, It's So Unfair!, Anderson (London, England), 2005.
British children's book author and illustrator Jonathan Allen is known for creating engaging picture books that feature simple line-and-watercolor art and a child-friendly storyline. In a career that has encompassed dozens of titles, Allen has achieved a reputation for creating the winsome illustrations that appear alongside his own text or with the stories of other authors. Noting that the author/illustrator "specializes in quirky characters" in books such as Mucky Moose, And Pigs Might Fly, and "I'm Not Cute!," Dorothy Houlihan added in her School Library Journal review that Allen possesses a talent for creating "entertaining [facial] expressions [that] extend and expand the humor of the story." The fact that his storylines are more than slapstick also adds to Allen's appeal; in "I'm Not Cute!," for instance, he pairs a story about an adorable owlet who cringes every time grownup animals coo and cuddle him with entertaining drawings to create what a Publishers Weekly critic called a "winning book [that] will resonate with children and grown-ups alike." "Young listeners will recognize themselves without realizing it," a Kirkus Reviews writer agreed of the bedtime storybook, adding that "parents will smile knowingly."
Born in 1957, in Luton, England, Allen earned a graphic-arts degree at St. Martin's College of Art, and his first illustrations for a children's book appeared three years later, gracing the pages of Jeremy Strong's Trouble with Animals. Shortly thereafter, Allen authored two books of original rhyme. One, A Bad Case of Animal Nonsense, brings readers to an imagined Alphabet Game Park in which such animal oddities as a panda taking a bath and a stoat riding a bicycle combine to help young readers identify sounds and letters. "Allen's sense of humor is uninhibited," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer of this title. Allen continued in the same vein with A Pocketful of Painful Puns and Poems, which features enticing word-play images full of child appeal, such as a "hot-air baboon."
In Mucky Moose Allen introduces a moose who prefers to wander around in the foulest part of his forest's swamp and therefore emits a perfectly awful smell. While such a smelly condition has its social drawbacks, it also proves beneficial when the moose's stench discourages a hungry wolf. The determined predator attempts to re-attack, first by pinching its nostrils shut with a clothespin and then by donning a gas mask, among other strategies, but in the end it is always overpowered by Mucky Moose's pungency. Cooper, reviewing the title for Booklist, praised Mucky Moose. Describing Allen's chronicle as that of a "goofy looking moose," a "razor-toothed wolf," "and accounts of some pretty bad smells," the critic concluded of Allen's book: "What's not to like?"
Who's at the Door? is Allen's retelling of the "Three Little Pigs" saga. In the author/illustrator's version, the door separating pig from wolf takes up most of the page spreads; readers see the worried porcine trio on one side and the crafty wolf trying out a number of disguises on the other. Mr. Wolf tries various means to gain entry, including impersonating a police officer and even wearing a pig disguise. In each case, the savvy swine evade the attempted intrusion by various means, including dressing in a wolf costume, which scares their dim-witted tormentor. "The split-page device guarantees a lively pace, while Allen's puckish, cartoon-like pictures heighten the humor still further," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Five Owls critic Mary Lou Voigt noted of Allen's interpretation of the popular "Three Little Pigs" tale that, in his whimsical drawings of the creatures, readers "can almost see the ideas forming in their heads as they plan new ways to outwit the wolf."
Allen's zany sense of humor shines through in The Keep-Fit Canaries, the story of seven pet-shop birds who leave for a home of their own, only to find that they dislike the boredom of a household as much as they did that of the pet-shop window. The birds—ranging in name from Horace to Doris, Alice to Clarice—discover a stash of aerobics tapes and work hard to become physically fit. They eventually break out of their cage and begin a rampage that culminates in the harassment of their neighbors and the stealing of food. Finally, the muscle-flexing birds find a more constructive way to alleviate their boredom: a steady job as bodyguards to the Lord Mayor's pet parrot. Allen's "up-to-the-minute dialogue sparkles with wit," noted School Librarian contributor Elizabeth Finlayson, the critic adding that the story's "minor human characters emerge brilliantly in thumbnail sketches." Allen's fearsome birds return to roost in a sequel, Flying Squad.
In Two by Two by Two the author/illustrator retells the biblical tale of Noah and his ark. Geared for readers aged four to eight, the story introduces Noah and describes the man's giant vessel, on which he brings two of each species of animal and then waits out a massive flood. Veering slightly from the Bible version, Allen imagines poor bedraggled Noah struggling to keep peace aboard the soggy ship by devised games and even
cabaret shows to help relieve his passengers' worry. Allen's "ark is a festive floating jungle, with breezy but accurate gouache-and-ink cartoons of exotic animals," noted a Publishers Weekly critic.
Beleaguered farm animals are the subject of several books by Allen. In Fowl Play Detective Hubert Hound tracks down the whereabouts of six missing chickens, while Chicken Licken: A Wickedly Funny Lift-the-Flap Book presents a reworking of the oft-told story about the creature who announced: "The sky is falling!" In the latter book Allen introduces several new characters to round out the cast, including Funny Bunny and Foxy Loxy. "Beginning readers are sure to enjoy reading this for themselves," predicted Magpies critic Annette Dale-Meiklejohn in a review of Chicken Licken. Another farmyard farce plays out in The Little Red Hen: A Deliciously Funny Flap Book. Beginning with another familiar children's story, Allen creates what a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed a "well-crafted, amusing novelty" in a lift-the-flap book that finds the Little Red Hen shouldering the bulk of the work in baking corn bread while her gadabout farmyard companions dish out naught but excuses until the tasty bread is pulled from the oven.
As he did in Who's at the Door?, Allen explores the workings of the lupine mind in his humorous picture book Wolf Academy. As the story begins, two wolves adopt an abandoned cub they have found in the forest, believing it to be one of their own. As little Phillip grows, however, he displays increasingly strange behavior that is anything but wolf-like. On a recommen- dation, Phillip is enrolled at the Wolf Academy, where he performs even more abysmally and even snarls at his classmates. Finally, when the teacher instructs the misfit cub and his classmates to disguise themselves as sheep the problem is revealed: Phillip turns out to be not a wolf at all, but rather a sheepdog skilled in herding sheep and keeping wolves at bay.
Allen has also created board books and stories for younger children who are just beginning to read on their own. Toddler-sized volumes such as My Cat and My Dog feature simple words as well as appealing images on their stiff, glossy pages. Focusing on a little boy and his tabby, My Cat tells the story of how a kitty first came to live with her human family. The book's young narrator also lists his pet's feline quirks and describes how the two play together. "Allen's primitively drawn … tabby has a certain endearing charm," noted Ilene Cooper in a Booklist review. Allen also uses board books to teach basic skills to very young readers. Part of a series, Purple Sock, Pink Sock helps children identify colors by name, while Big Owl, Little Towel and Up the Steps, down the Slide introduce the concept of
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opposites. "Allen's bright watercolors focus attention on the concepts," opined Marge Loch-Wouters in a School Library Journal review of the "Jonathan Allen Board Book" series.
Allen's work as an illustrator for other writers continues to earn him kudos from reviewers and readers alike. In his work for Frank O'Rourke's Burton and Stanley, he brings to life a story, not about the famed African explorers, but about two marabou storks who are carried by the wind from their native Kenya to a dusty railroad station in Nebraska during the mid-1930s. The town's children love the exotic birds, but the coming Plains winter threatens the creatures' delicate health. Moreover, government wildlife officials are on their way to Nebraska after hearing about the two exotic storks. Fortunately, Burton and Stanley know Morse code and use it to communicate with the local telegraph operator. The man helps the birds plan a speedy exit by directing them to New Orleans, where they stow away aboard a ship bound for Africa and home. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commended Allen's feathered main characters, "lugubrious, slightly untidy birds with curiously human features." In Burton and Stanley, the critic added, Allen serves up "a thoroughly warmhearted and rather touching entertainment."
Allen's illustrations for Margaret Mahy's The Three-Legged Cat also won enthusiastic reviews. Tom, the feline of the title, is missing a leg, and lives quietly with nearsighted Mrs. Gimble, an elderly woman who prides herself on living a respectable and uneventful life. Tom, however, longs for adventure and unseen vistas. One day Mrs. Gimble's brother Danny, whom she calls "a drifter," comes to visit. Danny arrives wearing a molting Russian fur hat and leaves instead with Tom curled up on his head. Mrs. Gimble, mistaking the forgotten hat for Tom, praises the kitty's newly docile demeanor. She is also pleased that he does not seem to eat very much. Meanwhile, the travel-hungry Tom gets to see the world. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote that Allen's "cartoony illustrations serve up a deliciously bizarre, out-of-kilter world peopled by flat, pop-eyed characters." Commending Allen and Mahy's collaboration, Horn Book reviewer Mary M. Burns noted that the artist's "flair for farce equals [that of the author] …, as demonstrated by his agile line and sense for telling detail."
In addition to The Three-Legged Cat, Allen and Mahy have worked together to produce a number of other titles, among them Beaten by a Balloon and Simply Delicious! The latter story features Mr. Minky, who buys his son an ice cream cone while out shopping, then realizes he must speed home on his bicycle before the ice cream melts. Mr. Minky takes a short cut through the jungle where he must evade a series of hungry creatures, including a toucan, a tiger, and a crocodile, some of whom have a hankering for more than just ice cream. "Readers and listeners alike will get into the swing of things, cheering Mr. Minky on over each lumpy bump, all the way home," predicted a Horn Book reviewer, while Booklist contributor Michael Cart noted that Allen "captures the rhythm of the text and adds to the fun with droll depictions" of all the jungle animals."
Imaginative young beginning readers have much to enjoy in Allen's interactive work for Stephen Wyllie's Bear Buys a Car. Bear is excited about his new vehicle, purchased from Wolf, the somewhat shady owner of Wolf Motors. Bear believes Wolf when he is told that the car runs on potatoes and carrots instead of gasoline. It turns out that Wolf is actually correct: The vegetables are not fuel, however, but rather food for the enslaved pig hidden under the hood, who powers the car with his own hooves. Allen's paper engineering allows readers to move across the pages of scenery with Bear and his unusual car. "Expressive, lighthearted illustrations cheerfully complement this jolly tale," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who also praised Allen's depictions of "a gullible Bear and a pleasingly detestable, smirking Wolf" as sure to appeal to children.
Other books featuring Allen's whimsical art include Kara May's Joe Lion's Big Boots, in which a diminutive lion cub worries that he's always the smallest, both in his family and at school. To feel larger, Joe takes to wearing a pair of extra-large boots with heels that make him taller. Unfortunately, the boots make it impossible for the cub to play soccer, which he loves. Being larger also has other, more dire drawbacks: now that he can reach the sink, Joe must help washing up the dinner dishes! School Library Journal reviewer Maura Bresnahan commended Allen's "colorful, cartoonlike illustrations," noting that they "add to the child-friendly appeal" of May's story.
Biographical and Critical Sources
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, March 15, 1986, Ilene Cooper, review of My Cat, p. 1078; March 1, 1991, Ilene Cooper, review of Mucky Moose, p. 1396; September 1, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, reviews of Big Owl, Little Towel and Up the Steps, down the Slide, p. 807; July, 1995, Janice Del Negro, review of Two by Two by Two, p. 1882; March 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Beaten by a Balloon, p. 1250; September 1, 1999, Michael Cart, review of Simply Delicious!, p. 141; December 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Don't Wake the Baby!: An Interactive Book with Sounds, p. 728; April 15, 2006, John Peters, review of "I'm Not Cute!," p. 50.
Books for Keeps, May, 1988, Liz Waterland, review of Guthrie Comes Clean, p. 9; September, 1988, Moira Small, review of My Cat, p. 6; July, 1993, George Hunt, review of The Keep-Fit Canaries, p. 14; September, 1994, Peter Hollindale, review of A Bad Case of Animal Nonsense, p. 10; May, 1997, Judith Sharman, review of Chicken Licken, p. 20; November, 1997, Jill Bennett, review of Wolf Academy, pp. 21-22; March, 1998, George Hunt, review of Fowl Play, p. 19.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of "I'm Not Cute!," p. 439.
Five Owls, May-June, 1993, Mary Lou Voigt, review of Who's at the Door?, p. 111.
Growing Point, September, 1984, review of Guthrie Comes Clean, p. 4319.
Horn Book, July-August, 1993, Mary M. Burns, review of The Three-Legged Cat, p. 446; September, 1999, review of Simply Delicious!, p. 596.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1992, review of The Keep-Fit Canaries, p. 145.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of The Little Red Hen: A Deliciously Funny Flap Book, p. 855; March 1, 2006, review of "I'm Not Cute!," p. 225.
Magpies, November, 1991, Melanie Guile, review of Mucky Moose, p. 28; July, 1996, Annette Dale-Meiklejohn, review of Chicken Licken, pp. 24-25.
New Statesman, December 2, 1983, Michael Rosen, "Rhymeo Nasties," p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 1981, review of A Bad Case of Animal Nonsense, p. 78; October 12, 1992, reviews of One with a Bun, Big Owl, Little Towel, and Purple Sock, Pink Sock, p. 76; February 1, 1993, review of Burton and Stanley, p. 96; April 12, 1993, review of Who's at the Door?, p. 61; May 17, 1993, review of The Three-Legged Cat, p. 79; April 4, 1994, review of Clark the Toothless Shark, p. 77; May 22, 1995, review of Two by Two by Two, p. 59; September 25, 1995, review of Bear Buys a Car, p. 56; July 21, 1997, review of The Bear Whose Bones Were Jezebel Jones, p. 201; February 27, 2006, review of "I'm Not Cute!," p. 59.
School Librarian, September, 1983, review of A Pocketful of Painful Puns and Poems, p. 231; August, 1992, Elizabeth Finlayson, review of The Keep-Fit Canaries, p. 99; August, 1993, Janet Sims, review of Potion Commotion, p. 109; May, 1994, Jean Needham, review of B.I.G. Trouble, p. 59; May, 1996, Elizabeth J. King, review of Chicken Licken, p. 56; February, 1997, Catriona Nicholson, review of Fowl Play, p. 17; November, 1997, Julia Marriage, review of Wolf Academy, p. 184; summer, 1998, Marie Imeson, review of Flying Squad, p. 76; autumn, 2005, Peter Andrews, review of "I'm Not Cute!," p. 129; autumn, 2006, Richard Murphy, review of It's So Unfair!, p. 131.
School Library Journal, January, 1982, Margaret Bush, review of A Bad Case of Animal Nonsense; August, 1986, Lorraine Douglas, review of My Cat, p. 78; March, 1990, Nancy A. Gifford, review of My Dog, p. 184; August, 1991, Dorothy Houlihan, reviews of Mucky Moose, p. 142; March, 1993, Marge Loch-Wouters, reviews of Pink Sock, Purple Sock, Up the Steps, down the Slide, Big Owl, Little Towel, and One with a Bun, p. 170; June, 1995, Kathy Piehl, review of Two by Two by Two, p. 76; December, 2000, Martha Topol, review of Don't Wake the Baby!, p. 94; February, 2001, Maura Bresnahan, review of Joe Lion's Big Boots, p. 100; March, 2006, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of "I'm Not Cute!," p. 174.