James Berry OBE

James Berry was a Jamaican poet and author who grew up in the Caribbean, and settled in England in the late 1940’s. His poetry uses a mix of standard English and West Indian dialect and his writing often explores the relationship between black and white communities.

He said: "Poems come from your more secret mind. A poem will want to ask deeper questions, higher questions, more puzzling questions, and often too, more satisfying questions than the everyday obvious questions..."

His collections for children include A Thief in the Village and other stories, Celebration Song, When I Dance, A Story about Afiya, Anancy Spiderman, A Nest Full of Stars. In 1990 he was awarded an OBE. He won the Signal Poetry Award, the Smarties Grand Prix Award and a Coretta Scott King Book Award.

James was a performer at the first ever Children’s Bookshow in 2003. He died in June 2017.

Did you know…

  • During the Second World War, as a teenager, James went to work for six years as a farm labourer in the United States

  • When he arrived in the UK in 1948 he said "I knew I was right for London and London was right for me. London had books and accessible libraries."