Wednesday 9 January 2019

Lost worlds - Anne Rooney

Sadly, the brilliant illustrator John Burningham died on the 4th of January. He is one of the 'old guard', a generation of illustrators whose books have charmed, soothed and delighted young readers for more than half a century. His first book won the Greenaway in 1963. I was a toddler at the time, his very first generation of readers.

Already in the 1960s some of the world in his illustrations was the older part of the world, but only just. There were cars like Mr Gumpy's on the streets, though they were not generally full of farm animals.

There were horses pulling various vehicles, including the rag and bone man's cart (before recycling had a name). We did go shopping (on foot) with a basket like this:

The first train I went on looked rather like this:

 We visited farms where there were cows in fields, and pigs and chickens running around. We even, sadly, went to zoos where animals were in small, bare cages. We ate teas that looked just like this (with more human and fewer animals guests):

And if I had X-ray vision, this is exactly what I would have seen in my grandparents' bathroom (and in my own bathroom today, to be fair):

For today's readers, the world doesn't look much like this. The beauty and charm of the pictures that once blended the fantastic into the real and familiar is undimmed, but now the fantasy part is a little bigger. The pictures can take it. The reality was magical even when it was real. But the loss of this wonderful man and his enduring talent puts a little more sadness in a world that has lost far too much already.

Thank you, John, from three generations of my family.

Anne Rooney

Dinosaur Atlas, Lonely Planet
Winner: SLA 8-10, 2018
Shortlisted: Royal Society Young People's Book Award, 2018


Sue Purkiss said...

A lovely post.

Penny Dolan said...

A moving and beautiful post.

Enid Richemont said...

Quite apart from his work, which was brilliant, John was a totally lovely person. When my daughter was working with the ETO a few years ago, they wanted to make BORKA into a puppet opera, so she approached him and spent some time with him and Helen at their house in Hampstead. No problems over permission - he was enthusiastic and delighted - and the opera went on to be performed for kids from local schools at Kew.

Ellen Renner said...

I have long loved his work. So sad to hear he has died. Thank you, Anne, for a lovely tribute. Off to pour over one of his books, and feel a little sad but even more glad that he left us these magical pictures. xx

Pippa Goodhart said...

What a lovely appreciation of a man and a time. You've made me sad in a happy way!

catdownunder said...

Thank you Anne

Paul May said...

Lovely appreciation, thank you Anne.