John Burningham

John Burningham

Click on the books for a closer look

John Burningham was born in 1936. He went to an alternative school called Summerhill where children were free to pursue their own interests and he was allowed to focus on what he really loved doing: art. He left school with one certificate in English and failed all his other subjects but he went on to study illustration and graphic design at the Central School of Art, graduating with distinction in 1959. Many illustration commissions followed including iconic posters for London Transport, before the publication of Borka: the Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers, John’s first book for children which won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration and heralded the beginning of an extraordinary career.

John Burningham has since written and illustrated over thirty picture books, that have been translated and distributed all over the world. His best known works include Mr Gumpys Outing, published in 1970, and Granpa, published in 1984 and adapted into an animated film. Granpa was based on the relationship of his youngest daughter Emily with her Granpa who used to live next door. He says,

People say Granpa is about death. I think the point of it is the relationship between the very young and the very old. There is a bonding, especially between grandfathers and young children.

John often draws on his own family for ideas. Avocado Baby was prompted by his youngest daughter’s love of avocados and desire to eat them all of the time when she was a baby!
John does lots and lots of sketches of his characters and his text and illustration are worked out together. He says,

‘I don’t write a story and then do the illustrations. I have to know what’s going to be on every page. I do endless little sketches which represent pictures and text.’

Tug of War was republished in 2012, and a special edition of Borka, celebrating 50 years in print, was published in June 2013. Picnic appeared in the autumn of 2013 and The Way to the Zoo was published in the UK in 2014. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang celebrated its 50th year in print with a limited hardback edition published in 2015. Motor Miles was published in 2016.

John is married to the illustrator, Helen Oxenbury. They have three children, four grandchildren and a dog named Miles. They live in London.

Some books by John Burningham

Motor Miles (Jonathan Cape)
The Way to the Zoo (Walker Books)
There's Going to be a Baby (Walker Books)
It's a Secret! (Walker Books)
Edwardo: the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World (Red Fox)
The Magic Bed (Red Fox)
Granpa (Red Fox)
Avocado Baby (Red Fox)
Mr Gumpy’s Outing (Red Fox)
Would you Rather? (Red Fox)
Hushabye (Red Fox)
Borka: the Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers (Red Fox)

For more information about John Burningham please visit: