We were so pleased to hear that veteran illustrator Helen Oxenbury was given a lifetime achievement award by Booktrust this week.
Both she and her husband, John Burningham, were honoured by the literacy charity to celebrate their astonishing body of work over many decades.
While we are not so familiar with John’s books, Helen is responsible for bringing to life some of Baby Bookworm’s absolute favourite reads: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and the absolutely wonderful So Much! by Trish Cooke.
Helen and John follow in the prestigious footsteps of Shirley Hughes and Raymond Briggs and Judith Kerr in receiving this recognition.
The judging panel was equally impressive, made up of current Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, author and television presenter Dame Floella Benjamin, writer and illustrator Anthony Browne, poet and playwright Joseph Coelho, CEO of BookTrust, Diana Gerald, and writer and critic Nicolette Jones.
“Helen’s illustrations and writing are so warm, so elegant and yet so forward thinking,” said Diana Gerald. “Her work enables children from all walks of life to see their faces in the pages.”
Her arguably most famous collaborator Michael Rosen said: “Helen Oxenbury works in the great traditions of line, colour and composition to bring us the emotions of everyday life, often heightened by fantasy.
“She has reinvented the picture book for the very youngest children, reimagined classic texts, created new ones and – from a personal point of view – turned my adaptation of a folk chant into a great existential quest.
“It is all a huge achievement. In many different ways, I am more than grateful to Helen for her glorious work.”
There’s a lovely interview with Helen about the award, how she comes up with her characters and how So Much made waves when it was published here.