John Burningham

John Burningham, a much-loved children’s writer and illustrator, performed with The Children’s Bookshow at The Old Vic theatre alongside Judith Kerr in 2017. He was married to fellow illustrator, Helen Oxenbury and was known for the wit and humour he used in his original story-telling and artwork.

John used a wide range of materials to create his deliberately naïve and childlike artwork. He used crayons, printer’s ink, gouache, charcoal, Indian ink and pastels. His best-known picture books include; Mr Gumpy’s Outing, Mr Gumpy’s Motor Car, Come Away From The Water Shirley, Time To Get Out Of The Bath Shirley, Grandpa and Avocado Baby.

He won the 1963 and 1970 Kate Greenaway Medals for British children’s book illustration, the only person to win twice. The first for his debut book, Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers and the second for the enduring Mr Gumpy’s Outing. He received the Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 along with Helen Oxenbury.

During his performance at The Children's Bookshow in 2017, Nicolette Jones asked him if he ever worried that he might run out of ideas. John replied - "No, I never worry about that, I worry that I won't have time to finish all the ideas that I have."

John sadly died on 4 January 2019.

  • Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award 2018
  • Kate Greenaway Medal 1963
  • Kate Greenaway Medal 1970
  • Kurt Maschler Award 1984

Praise for John

Burningham is one of the best in the business

Financial Times

Did you know…

  • John was extremely good at the board game Scrabble.

  • Even though John was lauded as a brilliant illustrator with great artistic flair, he failed his Art A-Level while he was at school!

  • John's picture book, Avocado Baby was about his own youngest daughter whose favourite food was avocados!


A clip from John Burningham and Judith Kerr's performance in 2017

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