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 Picture Books Author of the Month

Raymond Briggs
Raymond Briggs
18 January 1934 -- ???

Biography
Raymond Redvers Briggs was born on January 18, 1934 in Wimbledon Park, London, England to Earnest and Ethel Briggs. His father was a cooperative milkman for over thirty years, and his mother also worked for the coopoerative for more than twenty years.

Like many British children, Briggs was evacuated to the English countryside during World War II. This was to protect them from the regular air raids made by German fighter pilots against British cities as part of the Blitz. He stayed with two aunts. "Although over a hundred miles from London, we were sometimes woken by loud machine gun fire as planes dived low overhead. Aunt Betty would cry, 'Get the case, Flo!' Flo was my other spinster aunt and the cases were always packed ready for an instant getaway if the Jerries [Germans] came. Once, the small stone cottage was ringed by jettisoned German bombs, but no harm came except for the glass falling out of the grandfather clock." [2]

At the age of ten, Briggs attended the local Grammar School called the Rutlish School in Merton, Surrey, England in 1944. The school concentrated heavily on speech, sports and science. Speech was of particular concern. The goal was to conceal the children's cockney accents in order to prepare them for their new middle-class stature. Music and the arts were not subjects in which the school encouraged an interest.

Briggs fell into an interest in cartooning when he was 11-years-old in spite of the low view his school had of art. Up until this point, he had wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

Briggs was awarded "The School Certificate" from the Grammar School after attending classes there for five years. His growing interest in art and goals for a future in the field were furthered when he started taking classes at the Wimbledon School of Art in1949. "Here we trained in the nineteenth-century academic tradition. This ignored all that had happened in art since 1880, including the impressionists." [2]

Cartoons were despised at Briggs' new school. As a result, he decided to study painting. He had four years of figure drawing , figure composition, life painting, and still life. There were no lessons in abstractions. Looking back on all that he learned with these classes, Briggs realized that this was the perfect training for an illustrator. He received "The Intermediate Art Certificate" from the school in 1951 and "The National Diploma of Design (in Painting) Certificate" in 1953.

After graduating, Briggs was conscripted into the British Army. He served for two years, but attained no rank.

Briggs attended the Slade School of Fine Art once he left the military. He studied painting for two more years and was awarded "The Diploma of Fine Art Certificate" in 1957. Briggs had always wanted to illustrate as well as paint. As a result, he began taking work around to publishers while he was still taking classes at the Slade School.

Publishers began to suggest that he consider illustrating children's books. At first, Briggs was horrified. However, it was not long before he realized that it was a wonderful field in which to work. "Compared with advertising and magazine work, the illustrator's other main fields, it is much less commercial, more warm, human and free." [2]

As a result of this new venture, Briggs became a freelance illustrator, book designer and children's writer. This new career choice was one in which he was much more successful than his previous attempt in the field of painting.

In 1961, he took a position, which he still has, as a part-time lecturer in illustration at the Brighton College of Art in Sussex, England.

Briggs was married in 1963 to Jean Taprell Clark, who passed away in 1973. Like Briggs, Jean also had a love of the arts. While he trained to be a painter, she trained to be an illustrator. While he trained to be an illustrator, she trained to be a painter. They were a perfect match. The couple had no children. While he loves to draw and write for children, he prefers them in small doses.

Briggs is most famous for his book, The Snowman, which took him 18 months to complete and was published in 1978. His second most popular book, Father Christmas, was published in 1973 and was based on his father, who had to go out in the snow every day, including Christmas, delivering milk.

When Briggs is not writing, he enjoys reading, vegetable gardening, growing fruit, and modern jazz. He is especially concerned with keeping England from becoming to urbanized. "Alistair Cook has warned us British that we are making the same mistake as Americans. We go about widening roads, tearing down old buildings and trees ... this sort of destruction only leads to more. The more roads, the more cars, it's never ending. We must leave our trees and our wilderness as they are. They can't be replaced once they are gone." [1]

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) Anne Commire (ed.). Something About the Author, #23; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1981.
2) Doris De Montreville and Donna Hill (ed.). Third Book of Junior Authors; The H.W. Wilson Company: New York, 1972.
3) Gentleman Briggs; http://www.toonhound.com/briggs.htm.
4) "Illustration: Raymond Briggs", BBC Knowledge: Books;http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/archive/voyager/books/i_briggs.shtml.
5) Sara and Tom Pendergast (ed.). The St. James Guide to Children Writers; St. James Press: Detroit,Mich., 1999.

Titles
E-BRI Father Christmas (1973) -- Follow a rather disgruntled Santa Claus on his annual rounds.

E-Briggs Father Christmas Goes on Holiday (1975) -- Father Christmas needs some time off, but where will he go for his vacation? His reindeer take him to France, Scotland, and Las Vegas.

E-BRI Jim and the Beanstalk (1970) -- Jim climbs the beanstalk and discovers a toothless old giant who can no longer eat little boys.

E-BRI The Snowman (1978) -- When his snowman comes to life, a little boy invites him home and is taken on a flight high above the countryside in return.

Titles Illustrated by Raymond Briggs
J-394.2-MAN Festivals (1972) by Ruth Manning-Sanders -- Background information on the origins of holidays are provided with accompanying stories, poems, and descriptions for festivals for each month of the year from around the world.

J-398.2-HAV The Fairy Tale Treasury (1972) by Virginia Haviland -- Thirty-two of the world's best loved fairy tales, including "The Emperor's New Clothes," The Frog Prince," "Gone is Gone," "The Sun and the Wind," And "The Bremen Town Musicians."

J-629.13-BRI Lindbergh, the Lone Flier (1968) by Nicholas Fisk -- This brief biography presents the tale of Charles Lindbergh as he planned and accomplished the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Videos Based on Titles by Raymond Briggs
J-Snowman The Snowman (1982) -- A young boy's dream about his snowman coming to life is described in muted pastels and an exquisite orchestral score.

Websites
Gentleman Briggs (http://www.toonhound.com/briggs.htm) - This fan site has some really good information on his website relating to Raymond Briggs, his works and even films that have been made on his books.

"Illustration: Raymond Briggs", BBC Knowledge: Books (http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/archive/voyager/books/i_briggs.shtml) - This site provides a very brief biography for Raymond Briggs as well as some unique information about some of his most popular works. 

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