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Helen Oxenbury

Helen Oxenbury is a beloved and acclaimed picture book creator from the United Kingdom, with a career spanning over half a century. She has brought to life stories by renowned authors for young children, and has also produced original works that are innovative in concept, yet always rooted in the lives of her young audience and their families.


Her artistic journey began in childhood, as she enjoyed drawing and was encouraged by her architect father who recognized her early talent. She pursued her passion further, studying at Ipswich School of Art and later at the Central School of Art and Design in London, where she met her future husband, John Burningham. While studying to be a theatre set designer, she followed John to Israel after graduation and worked for the Habimah Theatre in Tel Aviv. Upon returning to Britain, she briefly worked in TV and film production before embarking on her illustrious career in children's book illustration alongside John.


Helen's first book was published in 1967, and just two years later, she was awarded the UK Library Association's Kate Greenaway Medal for her illustrations in Edward Lear's poem "The Quangle Wangle's Hat" and Margaret Mahy's "The Dragon of An Ordinary Family." She continued to illustrate throughout the 1970s while raising a young family, and in the following decade, she became a pioneer in a new movement in publishing – books for babies, about babies.


In 1981, Helen began publishing her own series of robust "board books" specifically designed for the smallest hands, featuring double-page spreads with an object from a baby's world on one page and a baby interacting with it on the other. This concept was entirely new at the time and led to the creation of the Big Baby Board Books series, featuring diverse groups of babies joyfully playing and exploring. Helen's titles were extensively used in Bookstart, the UK's very first book gifting project for young families, in the 1990s.


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Helen's talents shone as she illustrated a variety of prize-winning and popular books that have become modern classics. Her illustrations in Michael Rosen's "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" (1989), Martin Waddell's "Farmer Duck" (1991), Eugene Trivizas's "Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig" (1993), and Trish Cooke's "So Much" (1994), among others, displayed her unique voice, keen observation, attention to character, and subtle yet playful drama. In 1999, she was awarded her second Greenaway Medal for her illustrations in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," a timeless classic.

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