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‘The Snowman’ author and illustrator Raymond Briggs dies aged 88

Briggs was one of British literature's most beloved faces

By Nick Reilly

Raymond Briggs
Raymond Briggs has died aged 88 (Picture: Alamy)

Raymond Briggs, the iconic writer and illustrator known for books such as The Snowman and Fungus The Bogeyman, has died at the age of 88.

Briggs, known for his distinctive illustrative style, charmed families across the globe as The Snowman became a Christmas staple, but he was known for more personal and hard-hitting works, too.

The graphic novel Ethel & Ernest offered a loving and at times emotional account of his parents’ relationship, while When the Wind Blows captured the aftermath of a nuclear attack in Britain.

A statement from his family said: “We know that Raymond’s books were loved by and touched millions of people around the world, who will be sad to hear this news. Drawings from fans – especially children’s drawings – inspired by his books were treasured by Raymond and pinned up on the wall of his studio.

“He lived a rich and full life and said he felt lucky to have had both his wife Jean and his partner of over 40 years Liz in his life.

“He shared his love of nature with Liz on South Downs walks and on family holidays to Scotland and Wales. He also shared his sense of fun and craziness with his family, and with his family of artist friends – at get-togethers, fancy dress parties, and summer picnics in the garden.

“He played practical jokes and enjoyed them being played on him. All of us close to him knew his irreverent humour – this could be biting in his work when it came to those in power. He liked the Guardian editorial describing himself as an ‘iconoclastic national treasure’.”

Francesca Dow, managing director of children’s at Penguin Random House, which served as Raymond Briggs’ publisher, said: “I am very proud that Puffin has been the home of Raymond’s children’s books for so many years.

“Raymond’s books are picture masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, speaking to both adults and children with a remarkable economy of words and illustrations.”

She said he was “a brilliantly observant, funny storyteller, honest about how life is rather than how adults might wish to tell it to children”.

Briggs was born in 1934 and went to grammar school in Wimbledon, before leaving at the age of 15 to attend Wimbledon Art College.

His desire to draw cartoons faced opposition there and later during his time at the Slade School of Fine Art, but he eventually found success when winning the prestigious Kate Greenaway medal twice.

The Snowman was first released as a picture book – and has sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide. It was turned into a much-loved animation in 1982 for Channel 4 and has been shown every Christmas since.

His won an array of prizes across his career, including the Kurt Maschler Award, The Children’s Book of the Year, the Dutch Silver Pen Award. He was also made a CBE for services to literature in 2017.