John Burningham, one of the most famous English children’s author and illustrator of the 20th century has died recently at the age of 82.
He was married to no less famous writer and illustrator Helen Oxenbury and contributed to around 60 picture books, all loved by generations of children. His most famous works include : Borka: The Adventures of a Goose With No Feathers, and Mr Gumpy’s Outing which both won the Kate Greenaway medal in 1963 and 1970, but also Avocado Baby, Granpa and many others translated in several languages.
His art as an illustrator described by Maurice Sendak as « visual poetry » is always based on a profound respect of the child whatever his age, encouraging his imagination to fill in the gaps between words and picture. Hence the weaving of his stories based on adressing children directly, never speaking down to them : “I would say that they know one’s on their side,” (…) “Children are not less intelligent, they’re just less experienced, and there is a rather silly attitude that can be adopted, that ‘Oh it’s for children, it’s got to be pink coloured cakes or lots of pattern everywhere, that’s what they’ll like’, and they’re bored. And if they don’t like it they simply won’t look at it.” he said.
It is thanks to the delicate work of his line and colour that he creates complicity and dialogue with the reader.