Raymond Briggs was born in Wimbledon Park, London, in 1934. Briggs won a place at Rutlish Grammar School in Merton (an establishment later attended by John Major). Rather than the white collar job his mother might have preferred, Briggs went on to Wimbledon School of Art where he excelled in figure drawing, then to the Slade School of Fine Art, where he gained a Diploma in Fine Arts.
From a very early age Briggs wanted to work with written text and illustration; at aged ten, he wanted to be a journalist and at aged twelve, having discovered Punch, he wanted to become a cartoonist. When he left the Slade he already had work as a commercial artist in advertising.
He became a freelance writer, illustrator and book designer, as well as a teacher of illustration at the Brighton College of Art. For a long time, he mainly produced children's books, such as 'The Strange House' (1961), 'Fungus the Bogeyman' (1977) and 'The Snowman' (1978). In 1982, he created the awarded graphic novel 'When the Wind Blows', about an elderly couple preparing for and living through a nuclear war. This remarkable book, which was made into a movie, was the first of a series of comics for adults Raymond Briggs did, including the moving 'Ethel & Ernest' (1998), in which he tells the story of his parents' lives. Recent children's comic books he made are 'Ug, Boy Genius of the Stone Age' and 'Ivor the Invisible' (2001).
In " Ethel and Ernest" he tells the story of how his father met his mother, a lady's maid, after seeing her shake her duster from a window as he rode by on his way to work. Their marriage was stable and loving. Except for a buzz bomb in the war in nearby Putney, there was no drama, and the couple lived for forty one years in the same house. Briggs was their only child.
His father, a milkman, was the model for Father Christmas, "a nice, kindly chap who tended to grumble" and as Briggs has commented, about delivering milk and delivering presents, "they're similar jobs really".
Briggs' father was staunchly loyal to his working class origins, and although not educated in the conventional sense, read the newspapers and was well informed where politics was concerned. Briggs himself supports various Green groups, although in recent interviews he has spoken of "seven available dooms" which threaten us - desertification, fresh water shortage, acid rain, pollution of the sea, pollution of ground water, ozone depletion and population explosion - and of his belief that we won't be able to avert them all.
The seventies were a bleak decade in Briggs' life. His mother died in 1971 and his father nine months later. His wife, who suffered from schizophrenia, died in 1973. In all of his work there is a poignant theme of loss.
Raymond Briggs's books appeal to adults and children. His Mother Goose Treasury (1966) won the Kate Greenaway Medal. His hugely successful strip illustration books include the children's classics, Father Christmas (1973), winner of a second Kate Greenaway Medal and The Snowman (1978) which was made into an animated film in 1982.
Briggs' work has achieved critical and popular acclaim. His books have been translated into fifteen languages and adapted into films, plays and TV cartoons.
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Through The Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews
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