Raymond Briggs was one of the most respected and beloved author-illustrators, best-known for his 1978 classic, The Snowman.
Born in Wimbledon in 1934, Raymond showed interest in cartooning from an early age and studied at the Wimbledon School of Art and later at the Slade School of Fine Art. He briefly pursued painting before becoming a professional illustrator, working in advertising and going on to win acclaim as a book creator as well as teaching illustration at Brighton College of Art.
Raymond illustrated a book of nursery rhymes, The Mother Goose Treasury, in 1966 for which he won the Kate Greenaway medal. Since then, he has produced a treasure trove of work, becoming one of the most innovative and popular author-illustrators of our time. His books include Father Christmas (1973), Father Christmas Goes on Holiday (1975), Fungus the Bogeyman (1977), The Snowman (1978), When the Wind Blows (1982) and The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman (1984). These books, amongst countless others, have been translated into many languages and adapted into films, plays and animations for television.
Raymond’s beloved parents Ethel and Ernest adored him, and were a huge inspiration for Raymond throughout his life – informing the stories of Father Christmas (with his father’s anti-social hours as a milkman are reflected in Father Christmas’s work) and When the Wind Blows – as well the story of their lives: Ethel & Ernest (1998). This graphic novel tells the story of how his father, a milkman, met his mother, a lady’s maid, and how they lived together in the same house for forty-one years. An animated feature film based on the novel was released in 2016.
The Snowman was published by Hamish Hamilton in 1978 as a wordless picture book and it has gone on to sell over 5.5m copies in various formats around the world. Producer John Coates created an animated version of The Snowman for Channel 4, it was first broadcast on Boxing Day 1982 in Channel 4’s inaugural year and has been shown every Christmas since.
Raymond has won many awards and accolades throughout his career, including the Kurt Maschler Award, The Children’s Book of the Year, the Dutch Silver Pen Award, and the prestigious Kate Greenaway Award twice for The Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Treasury and Father Christmas.
More recently, in February 2017, Raymond was honoured with the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award, which celebrates the body of work of an author or illustrator who has made an outstanding contribution to children’s literature. He was awarded a CBE for services to literature in the same year. His final book, Time for Lights Out, in which Raymond contemplates old age and death, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2019 to critical acclaim.
Raymond passed away in August 2022.
Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children’s, remembers him fondly:
“I am very proud that Puffin has been the home of Raymond’s children’s books for so many years. Raymond’s books are picture masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, speaking to both adults and children with a remarkable economy of words and illustrations. Raymond is probably best known for The Snowman. He needed greater freedom perhaps than the standard 32-page picture book format allowed and created a radical and beautiful innovation: a wordless picture book for children, a storyboard of stills that became an instant classic in its own right, as well as the much loved animation. Raymond’s books are about life’s big subjects – the loneliness and loss of The Snowman; the fallout of nuclear war in Where the Wind Blows; the celebration of drudge and slime of Fungus the Bogeyman; and the magical mundanity of Father Christmas, for whom “another blooming Christmas” with its narrow “blooming chimneys” is a hazard for a wide girth.
Raymond was a brilliantly observant, funny storyteller, honest about how life is rather than how adults might wish to tell it to children. A kindness, integrity, and generosity run through all his books. And so in life: Raymond was a generous, unjealous spirit who was a pleasure to work with, as well as to visit in his Sussex cottage and experience his teasing genius in its home. He was funny! He made us laugh a lot. I will miss him. All of us who had the privilege of working with him will miss him.
Raymond was unique. He has inspired generations of creators of picture books, graphic novels, and animations. He leaves an extraordinary legacy, and a big hole.”
Image by David Sandison.