Born in London in 1932. Majored in English Literature at Downing College, Cambridge, with further studies at London University’s Institute of Education and at the Chelsea School of Art, where he took life-drawing classes. He would then teach illustration at the Royal College of Art for twenty years, becoming Head of the Illustration Department (1978-86). At the age of 16, his first drawings were published in the celebrated satirical magazine Punch, and he would continue as a regular contributor to this and to The Spectator and other magazines for many years, while entering the world of children’s books illustration in 1960. He has since collaborated with notable children’s writers such as John Yeoman, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen, Russell Hoban and, most famously of all, Roald Dahl, but he has also illustrated classics of world literature by authors such as Cervantes, La Fontaine, Voltaire, Dumas, Dickens, Carroll, Orwell and Waugh; in all, illustrating well over 300 books, of which more than 35 were also written by himself.
He has won numerous prizes and awards for his book illustration, including the Whitbread Award (1974), the Kate Greenaway Medal (1980) and the Hans Christian Anderson Award for Illustration (1987), which represents the highest international recognition given to creators of children’s books. He was made the first ever Children’s Laureate (1999-2001), a post designed to raise the profile of children’s literature. In 2004 he was awarded the ‘Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres’ by the French Government for services to literature, and made an ‘Officier’ in 2007. He received a knighthood in 2013.