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John Burningham: a lifetime in books

Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present

John Burningham won our Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

John Burningham has written and illustrated over 30 utterly wonderful picture books, which have won countless awards and affectionate praise over the years.

There's a mischief and a humour to his stories, but they also touch often on some big, profound themes. And of course, they are brilliantly illustrated, with some pages looking like they could easily be framed as works of art. 

Although you won't be disappointed if you check out all of John's books with your child, here are a few of our absolute favourites to get you started (and hooked).

You might also like: a list of books by Helen Oxenbury, who jointly won the award in 2018. 

  • Would You Rather…

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox

    A classic for children, Would You Rather... presents an alternative to a traditional story by imagining a mixture of fantastical and real-life choices. It's great for building confidence with little ones about making their own choices for their own reasons. 

  • Avocado Baby

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox Picture Books

    Mr and Mrs Hargreaves' new baby is the fussy kind and doesn't seem to want to eat anything. Until he eats avocadoes – and gets bigger and stronger than anyone could have guessed. Avocado Baby is a total joy, full of surreal, off-kilter humour.

  • Husherbye

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox

    This soft, shushed delight of a bedtime book is perfect for getting little ones to sleep. John Burningham’s lilting text has a rolling rhythm and gentle assonance that carries the listener into a dream while listening. Husherbye, everyone; husherbye.

     

  • Tug of War

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Jonathan Cape

    In this retelling of a traditional African folk tale, wily Hare outwits Elephant and Hippopotamus when he challenges them to a game of tug-of-war

  • Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Walker Books

    Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present is the sort of story that warms your heart – and is perfect for a seasonal snuggle. A Christmas classic, indeed.

  • Oi! Get Off Our Train

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox

    As a small boy drifts off to sleep he dreams that he is taking a journey around the world in his model train.

  • Come Away from the Water, Shirley

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox

    John Burningham’s simple yet sophisticated account of a trip to the seaside is both a masterly drawing of grumpy Mum and Dad and a vibrant depiction of Shirley’s magical inner world. Fantastic.

  • Whadayamean

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox

    John Burningham’s book was topical in 1999 when it was published, and remains so today. A call to action for children to persuade adults to make a better world, it’s a reminder that we are stewards of the earth and need to take care of it before it’s too late. 

  • Picnic

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox Picture Books

    The deceptive simplicity of both text and illustrations will draw youngsters to the interactive elements in this picture book and provides an early opportunity to attempt independent reading.

  • Granpa

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Random House

    A sensitive and moving exploration of the relationship between a young girl and her grandfather.

  • The Way to the Zoo

    Author: John Burningham
    Publisher: Red Fox

    Sylvie notices a door in the wall of her bedroom that leads to a zoo. Even more unexpectedly, the animals want to come back to Sylvie’s room with her. This bewitching and yet simple imaginative story taps into the dreamlike thoughts of children.

  • Courtney

    Author: John Burnigham
    Publisher: Random House (Red Fox)

    Here is another brilliant story depicting John Burningham's quirky humour and understanding of children, clearly evident in the language and wonderfully expressive pictures.