'Why I love Raymond Briggs': famous fans of the author-illustrator
Published on: 09 February 2017
Raymond Briggs has just won our Lifetime Achievement Award for his huge contribution to children's books. And it turns out that quite a few well-known names still love him as adults...
Fellow writers, publishers and judges of the award have rallied around to enthuse about the writer-illustrator, known for much-loved works such as Ethel and Ernest and The Snowman.
Here's why just a few of those people think he's such a deserving winner of our award.
Raymond Briggs is a true artistic genius who has touched the hearts of millions of children of all ages. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and his particular style of illustration is unmistakable, as are his understated and poignant words of narrative and dialogue.
His talent expresses his values, and with his choice and treatment of subjects, he brings our history and contemporary challenges to life.
It would be pretty impressive to create ONE loveable character or classic book in one's lifetime… But Raymond Briggs has created an entire shelf-full.
His books have moved me and so many others to laugh out loud, to cry and to think. These are books that never underestimate, never dumb down and stand the test of time. My own children have enjoyed them just as much as I did when I was a child.
Throughout Raymond Briggs's career, his picture books and cartoon strips have not only been consistently artistically experimental, but bestsellers around the world - a remarkable achievement. He has made a truly outstanding contribution to the art and literature of this country.
For as long as I can remember, I have been haunted, captivated and enthralled by Raymond Brigg's peculiarly involving work.
When I was small, a babysitter brought me Fungus the Bogeyman as a gift. Within 15 minutes I was a screaming, incoherent mess and the book was forever banished to a box in the garage. So powerful was the story's hold that I slept on my back for years, lest a bogeyman engender a boil on the back of my neck.
Later, I discovered When The Wind Blows in my secondary school library, and would pore over it for hours, held horrified and amazed by a single page, a single line.
I can think of very few creators who so resolutely refuse to talk down to younger audiences. Whether enchanting them (The Snowman), amusing them (Father Christmas) or disturbing them (see above!), Mr Briggs does not pull his punches.
His work is unapologetically eccentric, unexpected, dour, magical, touching, shocking, sentimental, brilliant, true. He is a rarity to the point that only the word 'unique' will do, a master storyteller in absolute command of his medium; and as such he has woven his fantastical fever dreams into British life at the essential level.
Many years later, as a 'grown-up', I purchased a new copy of Fungus. These days I can stand to look at it, to admire the workmanship, the attention to detail, the black humour… But I still won't open it after dark.
Raymond is challenging and not afraid to take on controversial subjects.
His work is charming and at times poignant, without losing the sting in its tail.
I grew up with Raymond Briggs' books. When Father Christmas was published in 1973, I was one, and my parents bought it for my four-year-old sister and me immediately.
For us, Father Christmas was the real deal. I still avoid drawing Father Christmas, because it either doesn't look like Raymond Briggs' version (so therefore isn't really him at all) or it looks too much like I've just copied him!
It made perfect sense to me as a child that Father Christmas would be a grumpy old man with a fondness for alcohol and dreams of sunnier shores.
I think that what attracts me to Briggs' drawings and style of storytelling is the domestic detail. I remember spending a lot of time poring over The Elephant and the Bad Baby as a small child. I loved the humour (the woman's 'cake' hat in the baker's shop), and the way he changed the familiar to the disgusting in Fungus the Bogeyman (Flaked Corns, Golden Waxy Bits or Gripe Nits anyone?). Even greater, however, is his ability to convey emotion. I can't even flick through Ethel and Ernest without getting a bit weepy.
He is a master of taking the fantastic and domesticating it, and so bringing every subject he touches to a level we can all understand and empathise with. I can't think of anyone more deserving of a BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award.
This means that Briggs, for all his inventiveness, is grounded in reality and tells the truth - that friends are not always perfect, and you may lose them.
Raymond Briggs’ editor at Penguin Random House
It is an absolute joy to work with Raymond, and an honour to publish his incredible books. Raymond can evoke a giggle, a laugh, tears, surprise, distaste and wonderment – with just a line.
His beautiful, emotionally eloquent illustrations take us to worlds real and imagined, above and below ground. He captures the everyday struggles we all deal with, whether we’re a child, a child-eating giant, a Bogeyman or Father Christmas. These are books to be savoured as a child, an adult and all the years in between.
MD of Penguin Random House Children’s Books
Raymond is a genius. Utterly original. He has revolutionised how stories are told – without words, in little strips of pictures – and what stories for children can be about – a Snowman who melts, a Bogeyman who ponders the meaning of life, what happens to ordinary folk in a nuclear attack.
We are proud to be his publishers and we salute him!
Raymond Briggs' work has meant a great deal to me throughout my life. As a child, I had my own copies of The Snowman, Father Christmas and Fungus the Bogeyman. I have them still, their pages barely hanging together from hour after hour of close examination.
I was fascinated by the world within his pictures. This was the world as I experienced it. The day-to-day, familiar, mundane things were there, but alongside them another world existed, every bit as tangible and real. In this world, at any moment, anything could happen.
Briggs is an exciting author for a child because you never feel lied to or hoodwinked. Messy things are messy; sad things are sad; ugly things are ugly. Of course, snowmen melt in the sun; of course Father Christmas has to go to the toilet. It is all true!
As an adult, I think it's this honesty that I admire the most. His worlds never feel glib or arch. They are the real thing, 100 per cent.