Friday Reads Special: John Burningham & Helen Oxenbury!

Last week, we wrote about the delightful news from the Booktrust, who have given a Lifetime Achievement Award to husband and wife John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury. They have written and illustrated so many wonderful picture books over the years, and it is VERY hard to pick out any particular favourites, but a few are listed below in a Friday Reads special!

By Helen Oxenbury:


  • King Jack and the Dragon

A lovely simple story by Peter Bently, illustrated with happy children playing an imaginative game, toddler brother trying to join in. The affectionate pictures are humorous and adults can’t help but smile.

(Puffin, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9780141328010, find it at a Norfolk Library)

  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Her classic illustrations to Michael Rosen’s version of this traditional rhyme, with an ordinary family out having fun – until they actually encounter the bear. And what genius to finish with a rather sad lonely looking bear trudging back to his cave, depicted on the endpapers.

(Walker Books, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9780744523232, find it at a Norfolk Library)

By John Burningham:


  • Come Away from the Water Shirley

A brilliant little picture book with two parallel stories occurring on each double spread. While Shirley’s parents sit contentedly on the beach for the day and try to keep their young daughter in order, she is having an exciting adventure with a stray dog and pirates. These illustrations on each right hand page are full of colour and movement, but are wordless, while the left hand pages showing the grown ups are white and flat, but contain a few words, mostly admonishments to Shirley. Both remain totally ignorant of what the others are doing, but we the readers know and enjoy all.

(Red Fox, £7.99 paperback, ISBN 9780099899402, find it at a Norfolk Library)

  • Mr Gumpy’s Outing

It’s been around for a long time now, but every generation can enjoy the simple text and cheerful illustrations showing a kindly Mr Gumpy giving in to more and more requests to share the ride in his boat, until the inevitable happens. Far from being alarming, the capsized animals and children are shown calmly drying off and enjoying tea at Mr Gumpy’s.

(Red Fox, £7.99 paperback, ISBN 9780099408796, find it at a Norfolk Library)

From them both:

  • There’s Going to be a Baby

Burningham wrote the words, Oxenbury the illustrations, to this lovely picture book which would be ideal for a child expecting a new sibling.

While mum is excited about the new arrival, and suggests many activities and careers for the baby, the older child is less sure, and conjures up many reasons why these may not be a good idea, the illustrator showing these in humorous cartoon form. However by the time he goes with his Grandad to greet the new arrival he is convinced they are going to get on and sounds protective and welcoming. Very sweet.

(Walker Books, £7.99 paperback, ISBN 9781406331080, find it at a Norfolk Library)

For more recommendations, our Friday Reads archive can be found just here.


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