Kennaway, Adrienne 1945–

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Kennaway, Adrienne 1945–


Born May 25, 1945, in Christchurch, New Zealand; daughter of Derek (an electrical engineer) and Beryl (an illustrator and art teacher; maiden name, Scott) Moore; married Anthony Kennaway (divorced). Education: Attended Ealing Art School and Academia de Belle Art (Rome, Italy).


Home—County Kerry, Ireland. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Happy Cat Books, Bradfield, Essex CO11 2UT, England.


Illustrator and fine-art painter. Exhibitions: Kennaway's works have been exhibited in Dubai, Nairobi, Kenya; and North America, and are included in the private collection of the sultan of Dubai.

Awards, Honors

Kate Greenaway Medal, 1987, for Crafty Chameleon by Mwenye Hadithi.


(Self-illustrated) Bushbaby, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.

Little Elephant's Walk, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

Baby Rhino's Escape, Star Bright Books, 1998.

Baby Giraffe (lift-the-flap book), Star Bright Books, 1998.

Linda Jennings, A Tale of Two Pandas, Happy Cat (Essex, England), 2000.

An Otter's First Swim, Gardners Books, 2005.


Mwenye Hadithi (pseudonym of Bruce Hobson), Greedy Zebra, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1984.

Mwenye Hadithi, Hot Hippo, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1986.

Mwenye Hadithi, Tricky Tortoise, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1986.

Mwenye Hadithi, Crafty Chameleon, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1987.

John Agard, Lend Me Your Wings, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1987.

Mwalimu, Awkward Aardvark, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1989.

John Agard, Lend Me Your Wings, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1989.

Mwenye Hadithi, Lazy Lion, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990.

Eric Maddern, Curious Clownfish, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990.

Dick King-Smith, Blessu, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990.

Mwenye Hadithi, Baby Baboon, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.

Eric Maddern, Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.

Mwenye Hadithi, Hungry Hyena, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.

Allan Frewin Jones, Meerkat in Trouble, Star Bright Books, 1998.

Karen Wallace, Imagine You Are an Orang-utan, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England, 1998.

Miriam Moss, Arctic Song, BridgeWater Books (Mahwah, NJ), 1999.

Miriam Moss, This Is the Tree, Kane/Miller (Brooklyn, NY), 2000.

Miriam Moss, Jungle Song, Frances Lincoln, 2004.

Carole Douglis, Theo and the Giant Plastic Ball, United Nations Environment Programme (Nairobi, Kenya), 2004.

Miriam Moss, This Is the Oasis, Kane/Miller (La Jolla, CA), 2005.

Illustrator for Coral Reefs by Leslie Brown. Contributor of illustrations to Tales for a Prince and to Once upon a Hippo, 1995.


Hot Hippo was adapted as a filmstrip with cassette, Weston Woods, 1989.


Adrienne Kennaway is an illustrator noted for creating clear watercolor-and-ink art that reflects her extensive research, her interest in wildlife, and her love of the vast and varied African landscape. In picture books such as Hot Hippo, Lazy Lion, and Baby Baboon, she works closely with author Mwenye Hadithi to present entertaining stories that Horn Book reviewer Elizabeth S. Watson dubbed a "seamless melding of picture and text" featuring illustrations of "wonderful depth and variety" in Watson's review of Baby Baboon. Kennaway's interest in animals has also inspired her to look beyond Africa; in A Tale of Two Pandas, for example, she brings to life Linda Jennings' picture-book story set in China, while in her work for Eric Maddern's Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia she focuses on wildlife in yet another continent. Reviewing this latter work, Julie Corsaro wrote in Booklist that Kennaway's "bold, luminous watercolors" are characterized by "a strong sense of design," while the illustrator's "often-dramatic" paintings for Miriam Moss's This Is the Tree are "lush with detail, reward the viewer and extend the text." As an acknowledgment of Kennaway's skill, her work for Hadithi's Crafty Chameleon was honored with the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Kennaway was born in New Zealand, but moved to Kenya with her family at age three because of the demands of her father's job. "I think it came as a bit of a surprise to my parents when they realised that Swahili had become my main language!," the author/illustrator once recalled to SATA. Kennaway's mother, an illustrator and art teacher, encouraged her daughter's interest in drawing; "in those early days," the illustrator recalled, "[she] would take me to sketch animals in the game park a few miles outside Nairobi."

After attending a multiracial primary school in Kenya where artistic skill was encouraged, Kennaway moved to England in 1959. After enrolling at London's Ealing Art School, she explained, "I had an exceptional life class teacher, and I divided my time between fashion design and drawing, never quite sure which direction to
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follow. For two years I went to Italy and studied at L'Academia del Belle Arte in Rome, where I was to learn a great deal about color and composition."

"In 1963 my father was working in Taiping, Malaysia," Kennaway continued to SATA, "and I joined him for a year, spending the whole time painting before taking a cargo ship back to Mombasa, Kenya, and went straight into illustrating for a publishing company. It was through this work that I met [noted naturalist] Leslie Brown, who was preparing a tome on tropical marine fish and invited me to illustrate it for him. The problem and the delight was that there was virtually no reference. I had to learn how to SCUBA dive and, once qualified, spent months diving on the Indian Ocean reefs to sketch and photograph the fish. In the process we discovered several previously unknown species, and the book Coral Reefs became a standard reference work."

On the strength of her work with Brown, Kennaway was commissioned by the Kenyan Post Office to design several postage-stamp series. "In my spare time, of course, I was painting, just for myself, mainly impressionist and abstract work. The idea for my first children's book, Greedy Zebra, was the result of a conversation with an old Kenya friend, Bruce Hobson, who writes under the name Mwenye Hadithi (which in the Kikuyu language means 'story teller')." Since the 1984 publication of Greedy Zebra, several other picture-book collaborations between Kennaway and Hadithi have followed, including the porquoi stories Hot Hippo, Crafty Chameleon, and Tricky Tortoise.

"Greedy Zebra is a story about how the zebra came to get its stripes," Kennaway once explained. "For long ago all the animals were the same dull color until called to a cave where they found skins of many colors, horns and tusks, bone needles and thread. However, while all the other dull animals were making themselves look splendid by sewing new skins onto themselves, Zebra was busy eating tasty grass. When he finally got to the cave, he decided that he would have a mane like Lion, a coat like Leopard, and horns like sable Antelope. Alas, there was nothing left except for a few strips of black. He stitched these around his fat body—with some difficulty—but he was so fat that the stitches went pop, pop, pop, and Zebra was left wearing his coat of stripes.

Hot Hippo is "about how Hippopotamus lived on the land, was very uncomfortable in the African sun, and looked with envy at the fish in the river," Kennaway related. "He wanted so much to live in the water that he went to the mountain, where Ngai, the god of everything and everywhere, lived. Ngai, who had told the animals to live on the land, the fish in the rivers and sea, the birds in the air, and the ants in the ground, had told Hippo to live on the land and eat grass. When he tells Ngai that he wants to live in the rivers and streams, Ngai fears that Hippo might eat the little fishes. Finally, on a promise that he won't touch the fish, Hippo is allowed to live in the river by day, but must come out to eat grass at night. Now and again, when in the water, Hippo comes to the surface, opens his large mouth very wide, and says 'Look, Ngai! No fishes!'"

Other collaborations include Crafty Chameleon, published in 1987, in which a clever chameleon outwits both a pesky leopard and a bullying crocodile, and Tricky Tortoise, wherein a small African tortoise gets the best of a mighty elephant. Awkward Aardvark, a collaboration between Kennaway and Mwalimu, focuses on an anteater who keeps the other animals awake due to his loud snoring, until he is knocked out of his tree by a troop of tiny termites.

"I work mainly in watercolors, inks, and pencil," Ken-naway once explained to SATA. "I use special colored inks for the children's books because they give such
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good depth and clarity, thought they are by no means easy to use. You have to get it right the first time!"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, May 1, 1994, Deborah Abbott, review of Hungry Hyena, p. 1608; October 15, 1993, Julie Corsaro, review of Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia, p. 447.

Horn Book, May-June, 1993, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Baby Baboon, p. 316.

New York Times, December 4, 1989, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Hot Hippo, p. 25.

New York Times Book Review, February 24, 1991, review of Lazy Lion, p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, May 31, 1993, review of Baby Baboon, p. 54.

School Librarian, winter, 2004, Margaret Mallet, review of Jungle Song, p. 188.

School Library Journal, March, 2001, Susan Hepler, review of This Is the Tree, p. 238; May, 1994, Mary Lou Budd, review of Hungry Hyena, p. 95.

Times Educational Supplement, March 24, 1989, Chris Lee, review of Crafty Chameleon, p. 25; November 10, 1989, Raymond Briggs, review of Awkward Aardvark, p. 59; September 10, 1993, Sian Griffiths, review of Rainbow Bird, p. 20.


Kane/Miller Web site, (June 3, 2006), "Adrienne Kennaway."

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Kennaway, Adrienne 1945–

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