Anthony Browne

Children's Laureate 2009-11

Anthony Browne is an internationally acclaimed author and illustrator of children's books. He blends near-photographic realism with fantastical, surreal touches and ingenious visual puns.

20th anniversary celebrations: read Anthony Browne's letter

Anthony Browne is an internationally acclaimed author and illustrator of children's books, with dozens of titles to his name. 

Anthony's skilful use of colour, pattern and background detail subtly conveys an exquisite empathy for his lonely and sensitive child protagonists (both human and ape). Gorillas feature in many of Anthony's books. He says: 'I am fascinated by them and the contrast they represent – their huge strength and gentleness. They're thought of as being very fierce creatures and they're not.'

Anthony was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire in 1946 and grew up near Halifax. Inspired by his father, he was interested in art and drawing from an early age. 

When he left school, Anthony attended Leeds Art College, where he graduated with a graphic arts degree in 1967. Before focusing full-time on children's books, he worked as a medical illustrator for three years and illustrated greeting cards for Gordon Fraser in the UK for 15 years.

Anthony had his first book, Through the Magic Mirror, published in 1976, and a number of other successful books followed. Gorilla, published in 1983, won an unprecedented number of awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal, the Emil/Kurt Maschler Award, the New York Times Best Illustrated Book and The Boston Globe Book Award. It is now universally accepted as a classic. One of his best-loved characters is the chimp, Willy, who has appeared in Willy the Wimp, Willy the Champ, Willy and Hugh and Willy the Wizard.

His books have received many distinctions, including the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1983 for Gorilla and again in 1992 for Zoo. Gorilla (1983), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1988) and Voices in the Park (1998) all won the Kurt Maschler Emil Award. In 2000, Anthony received the highest international honour for illustration, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, for his services to children's literature – the first British illustrator ever to win the prize.

More recently, he was Illustrator in Residence at the Tate. The Shape Game was based on his experiences of this time and was shortlisted for the 2004 Kate Greenaway Award. It has also been voted the Honor Book in the US Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature.

Anthony was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Education at Kingston University in 2005. His work has been widely exhibited and his books are published all over the world. 

Goals as Waterstones Children's Laureate

'I hope to encourage more children to discover and love reading, but I want to focus particularly on the appreciation of picture books, and the reading of both pictures and words.
Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.'

During his time as Children's Laureate, Anthony promoted the importance of picture books and children's illustration. He was keen to encourage children to be creative and use their imaginations, and to support the development of visual as well as verbal literacy.

Learn about the Shape Game

He went on to create The Picture Book project: a collaboration between Seven Stories and Action for Children. Artwork produced by some of the 400 children who took part was displayed in an exhibition. There were also creative workshops for children. Anthony also developed the exceptionally fun Shape Game for children to play at home or in the classroom.

20th anniversary celebrations: read Anthony Browne's letter

Some books by Anthony Browne

Voices in the Park

Voices in the Park

Author: Anthony Browne

 An aloof, stern mother and her lonely son encounter an unemployed father and his friendly daughter as they walk their dogs in the park. Beautiful, profound and with lots to look at in Browne’s painterly tableaux.

Read more about Voices in the Park

Into the Forest

Into the Forest

Author: Anthony Browne

One night a young boy is awoken by a terrible noise. The next day he finds his father has disappeared and his mother doesn't know when he's coming back.

Read more about Into the Forest



Author: Anthony Browne

Hannah's favourite animals in the whole world are gorillas, but her dad is always too busy to take her to the zoo.

Read more about Gorilla

In this section

The Shape Game

While he was Children's Laureate, Anthony Browne introduced the Shape Game: a fun way to encourage children to be creative and use their imaginations.

Former Laureates

Take a look at our League of Laureates: eleven star authors and illustrators who have previously held the role.

Search books by Anthony Browne

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