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Sir Quentin Saxby BlakeCBEFCSDRDI is an English cartoonistillustrator and children's writer. He may be known best for illustrating books written by Roald Dahl.[a] For his lasting contribution as a children's illustrator he won the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2002, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books.[1][2] From 1999 to 2001 he was the inaugural British Children's Laureate.[3]


Blake was born in 1932 in Sidcup, Kent, and was evacuated to the West Country during the war. He went to Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, where his English teacher, J H Walsh, influenced his ambition to become involved in literature. His first published drawing was for the satirical magazine Punch, at the age of 16. He read English Literature at Downing College, Cambridge from 1953 to 1956, received his postgraduate teaching diploma from the University of London, and later studied at the Chelsea School of Art. He gained another teaching diploma at the Institute of Education before working at the Royal College of Art for over twenty years; he was head of the Illustration department from 1978 to 1986.


Blake illustrated The Wonderful Button by Evan Hunter, published by Abelard-Schuman in 1961.[4]

Blake gained a reputation as a reliable and humorous illustrator of more than 300 children's books, including some written by Joan AikenElizabeth BowenRoald DahlNils-Olof FranzénWilliam Steig, and Dr. Seuss —the first Seuss book that "Seuss" did not illustrate himself, Great Day for Up! (1974).[5]

As of 2006, Blake is the author or illustrator of 323 books of which he wrote 35 himself and Dahl wrote 18.[6][a] He recently illustrated David Walliams's first and second books, The Boy in the Dress and Mr Stink.

Other activities

In the 1970s Blake was an occasional presenter of the BBC children's story-telling programme Jackanory, when he would illustrate the stories on a canvas as he was telling them.

In 1993 he designed the five British Christmas issue postage stamps featuring episodes from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Quentin Blake is patron of the Blake SocietyDowning College's arts and humanities society. He is also a patron of "The Big Draw"[7] which aims to get people drawing throughout the United Kingdom, and of The Nightingale Project,[8] a charity that puts art into hospitals. Since 2006 he has produced work for several hospitals and mental health centres in the London area, a children's hospital (hopital Armand Trousseau) in Paris, and a maternity hospital in Angers, France.[9] These projects are detailed in Blake's 2012 book Quentin Blake: Beyond the Page, which describes how, in his seventies, his work has increasingly appeared outside the pages of books, in public places such as hospitals, theatre foyers, galleries and museums.[10]

In 2007 he designed a huge mural on fabric, suspended over and thus disguising a ramshackle building immediately opposite an entrance to St Pancras railway station. The rendering of an "imaginary welcoming committee" greets passengers arriving on the Eurostar high-speed railway.[11]

Blake is also the designer of 'Ben', the 'logo' of the shop chain, Ben's Cookies.

Quentin Blake is a supporter and Ambassador for the indigenous rights NGO, Survival International. In 2009, he said, "For me, Survival is important for two reasons; one is that I think it’s right that we should give help and support to people who are threatened by the rapacious industrial society we have created; and the other that, more generally, it gives an important signal about how we all ought to be looking after the world. Its message is the most fundamental of any charity I'm connected with."[12]

Selected works

These 35 books were both written and illustrated by Blake.[6][13]

  • Patrick (Jonathan Cape, 1968)
  • Jack and Nancy (Cape, 1969)
  • Angelo (Cape, 1970)
  • Snuff (Cape, 1973)
  • Lester at the Seaside (William Collins, Sons, 1975)
  • Lester and the Unusual Pet (Collins, 1975)
  • The Adventures of Lester (BBC, 1977)
  • Mister Magnolia (Cape, 1980) —winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal[14]
  • Quentin Blake's Nursery Rhyme Book (Cape, 1983)
  • The Story of the Dancing Frog (Cape, 1984)
  • Mrs Armitage On Wheels (Cape, 1987)
  • Quentin Blake's ABC (Cape, 1989)
  • All Join In (Cape, 1990) —winner of the Kurt Maschler Award for integrated text and illustration[15]
  • Cockatoos (Cape, 1992)
  • Simpkin (Cape, 199)
  • The Quentin Blake Book of Nonsense Verse (Viking Press, 1994)
  • Clown (Cape, 1995) —commended runner-up for the Greenaway Medal[16][b]
  • La Vie de la Page (Gallimard, 1995)
  • Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave (Cape, 1997)
  • Dix Grenouilles (Ten Frogs) (Gallimard, 1997)
  • The Green Ship (Cape, 1998)
  • Zagazoo (Cape, 1998)
  • Zap! The Quentin Blake Guide to Electrical Safety (Eastern Electricity, 1998)
  • Fantastic Daisy Artichoke (Cape, 1999)
  • The Laureate's Party (Random House, 2000)
  • Un Bateau Dans le Ciel (Rue du Monde, 2000)
  • Words and Pictures (Cape, 2000)
  • Tell Me a Picture (National Gallery, 2001)
  • Loveykins (Cape, 2002)
  • Laureate's Progress (Cape, 2002)
  • Mrs Armitage, Queen of the Road (Cape, 2003)
  • A Sailing Boat In The Sky (Random House: Red Fox, 2003)
  • Angel Pavement (Cape, 2004)
  • You're Only Young Twice (Andersen Press, 2008)
  • Daddy Lost his Head (Andre Bouchard, 2009)
  • Quentin Blake: Beyond the Page (Tate Publishing Ltd, 2012)

As illustrator[edit]

Blake has illustrated a score of books by Roald Dahl.[a]

He also illustrated the British edition of Agaton Sax, a Swedish-language series of comedy detective novels by Nils-Olof Franzén (originally illustrated by Åke Lewerth, 1955 to 1978).

  • Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves, 1965
  • Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery, 1969
  • Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers (a.k.a. Bank Robbers), 1970
  • Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles, 1971
  • Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes, 1972
  • Agaton Sax and the London Computer Plot, 1973
  • Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders, 1974
  • Agaton Sax and the Haunted House, 1975
  • Agaton Sax and the Big Rig (extended), 1976
  • Agaton Sax and Lispington's Grandfather Clock, 1978
  • The Learning Journey —National Curriculum, key stages 1 and 2, illustrated editions for parents
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