Raymond Briggs' now famous bestselling comic cartoon book depicts the effects of a neuclear attack on an elderly couple in his usual humorous yet macabre way.
Raymond Briggs is one of the foremost creators of illustrated books for adults and children, including the unforgettable The Snowman and Father Christmas.
THE BOOKSRaymond Briggs' parents have proved an important source of inspiration to the author/artist. His father was a milkman; his mother a former lady's maid. Raymond's unique characterisation of Father Christmas is based on his father - "Father Christmas and the milkman both have wretched jobs: working in the cold, wet and dark." His parents also influenced the character of Jim and Hilda, the victims of nuclear fall-out, in When The Wind Blows.
Raymond left school aged 15 to study painting at Wimbledon School of Art. After completing a typography course at the Central School of Art, and two years of National Service, Raymond went on to the Slade School to study painting. His first work was in advertising, but before long he was winning acclaim as a children's book illustrator as well as teaching illustration at Brighton College of Art.
Raymond was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1966 for his fourth picture book, The Mother Goose Treasury, and again in 1973 for Father Christmas. Published in 1978, The Snowman is perhaps Raymond's best-loved creation. He says that the book was partly inspired by its predecessor, Fungus The Bogeyman - "For two years I worked on Fungus, buried amongst muck, slime and words, so... I wanted to do something which was clean, pleasant, fresh and wordless and quick."Born: Wimbledon Park, January 18th 1934*Jobs: Artist, WriterLives: SussexFirst Book for Children: The Strange House, 1961*Raymond shares his birthday with A A Milne and Arthur Ransome
In Britain at this time there was much public concern over the increased tension between NATO and the Warsaw pact nations and the deployment of short range nuclear weapons by both blocs raised these tensions. In this atmosphere, the British government published a set of leaflets setting out what precautions could be taken by the public to reduce the effects of a nuclear strike.
In this book, we see an ordinary English couple attempt to follow the guidance in the leaflets and we follow their fate after a war. Alone, confused and dying from radiation sickness, they cling to their hopes that, by "doing the right thing" they will be OK and the authorities will come and take care of them.
The author introduces just enough levity to give Jim and Hilda humanity and to make their tale bearable. While Jim and Hilda may not be the smartest folk around, they are the thoroughly decent folks that you would always be happy to have neighbours and that fact brings the horror of the story home.
Although the threats that inspired this book have receded, it still carries a message that is important and deeply moving.
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