Writers

Add to researchMichael Foreman

Michael Foreman

Andersen Press

Born
Suffolk
Genre
Children, Graphic novels / Illustration
 
 
Biography
Michael Foreman was born in Suffolk in 1938 and grew up near Lowestoft.

He studied at Lowestoft Art School, and at St Martin's School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. His first children's book was published while he was still a student.

After completing his studies, he travelled all over the world, making films and television commercials and doing hundreds of sketches which he later used as the inspiration for many of his books. Before becoming a full-time author and illustrator, he lectured at various Schools of Art.

He has illustrated books by authors such as Dickens, Shakespeare, The Brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl and Rudyard Kiping, has designed Christmas stamps for the Post Office, and regularly contributes illustrations to American and European magazines.

Michael Foreman also writes and illustrates his own books. He enjoys writing about earlier periods of history, including conflict and war, in books such as War Boy: A Country Childhood (1989), War Game (1993), and After The War Was Over (1995). The latter is about the soldiers of the First World War, was shortlisted for a Kate Greenaway Medal and won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize (Gold Award 6-8 years category and overall winner) in 1993. His latest books are The Littlest Dinosaur's Big Advenure (2009) and A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope (2009).

Many of Michael Foreman's books also feature Cornwall, where he lives when not in London.

Critical Perspective

Michael Foreman’s sumptuously colourful picture books for children convey a sense of innocent play, appealing to the child’s own developing senses of adventure, wonder and imagination.

Journeying often provides the structure and imagery. In Hello World (2003), for instance, a bear in dungarees and a small boy go off ‘to see the world’ hand-in-hand, and are followed by kittens, puppies, ducks and other animals. They end up at night sitting on a hill, looking at the stars and moon (which looks back at them). The bear’s face, when first seen in white early morning light, looks very much like ‘Rupert Bear’. Nor might this be a coincidence: as Foreman explains in his memoir After the War was Over (1995), ‘I grew up on a diet of comics and magazines. As my mother ran the village shop, we sold almost everything, including Sunday newspapers …. [and] We had the … Daily Express because I liked to copy Rupert’. Such safe fabulous adventures may have provided an imaginative basis for the world created in Foreman’s art, albeit that in War Boy: A Country Childhood (1989) Foreman also describes a more earthy reality, as he and his friends explored bomb sites, the newly-liberated local beaches, and played games of Cowboys and Indians: ‘We were savages, chasing rabbits with knobbly sticks’. But his work often returns to issues of war, the environment, and above all a child’s need for freedom and adventure.

Over the past 40 years, Michael Foreman has become one of the best-known British writer-illustrators internationally, with more than 300 titles for both adults and children. He has enjoyed a long-standing involvement with the London-based literary magazine Ambit, and (a rather shorter spell) as an art director for Playboy. He is a superb colourist, typically covering the paper with luminous water-colour washes; blue seems his favourite colour, though greens, yellows, reds and pinks are used to equally great effect. He is skilled at suggesting vast skies and open spaces, and extraordinary panoramas, as in his Cat and Canary (1984) in which we see the skyscrapers of New York from the perspective of a cat riding a kite. Foreman’s style is especially suited to fables, folk and fairy tales, adept at suggesting menace, mystery, and the luminescent world of dreams. His Hans Andersen tales appeared in 1976, and his illustrations for Angela Carter’s Sleeping Beauty and Other Favourite Fairy Tales (1982), have many memorable images. We see Blubeard’s wife discovering a room full of skulls, a bad-tempered prince transformed by a fairy into a lion-headed amalgam of creatures; Beauty and the Beast; ogres, witches and fairy castles. Michael Foreman’s World of Fairy Tales (1990) collects tales from a variety of cultures, with his own location drawings.

Other highlights of his oeuvre include Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories (in two volumes, 1985 and 1994) showing dramatic scenes in colour plates and black and white free studies in line and wash; they succeed in conveying a range of moods and atmosphere, from the ghostly haunting of Hamlet’s Elsinore to the moonlit mischief of Titania, Bottom and Puck. Clever visual detailing abounds, as in Much Ado, with Benedick shown hiding behind an ear-shaped bush. The murder of Julius Caesar has a naked figure in agony, with orange blood and knives sticking out. In The Winter’s Tale jealous King Leontes is shown in sickly green between Polixenes and Hermione.


Foreman lives and works for part of each year at St. Ives in Cornwall, a frequently used setting, as in Ann Turnbull’s The Sand Horse (1989), in which a sand drawing on St. Ives beach emerges miraculously to join the rough sea’s white horses. Foreman appears as himself, a local artist, in Saving Sindbad (2001), a dog’s eye view of the town, as it helps the crew of the St. Ives lifeboat carry out a rescue. Foreman is also a world traveller, and many of his sketches find their way into his work. For Kipling’s Just-So Stories he visited India to steep himself in the country; the pictures suggest The East in their red, pink and even orange light. World locations, and his concern for the environment, are prominent in his ‘Panda’ series: in Panda and the Bushfire (1986), his friend the winged lion rescues koalas during a fire in the Australian outback. Watercolour sketchbook extracts decorate his football tale Wonder Goal (2002), showing children playing football all round the world, from New York to the Tibetan border, Italy, Egypt and a schoolyard in China, united by their love of the game.

Foreman is a fine autobiographer. His memoir, War Boy: a Country Childhood, combines photographs and even adverts alongside his water-colours and pen-and-ink drawings. Amid wartime and food rationing, the influx of foreign servicemen, life goes on at his mother’s shop in the Suffolk village of Pakefield. It opens dramatically, a fire-bomb coming through the roof of the room where he is sleeping, a two-page picture illustrating the air raid: ‘the sky bounced as my mother ran … the sky flared red as the church exploded’. He records with simplicity and humour the impact of the arrival of the Americans; embarrassments with the outside lavatory; his first encounters with movies and bananas. Part of the appeal is that the adult artist is constantly negotiating with his childhood self, and it ends with a haunting image of the landscape, ‘the ghosts of us children in the fields and woods of long ago’. After the War was Over opens in the Summer of 1945, with victory bonfires, as the beach was cleared of mines and a wrecked landing craft ‘became our pirate ship’. Its theme is that of the boy growing up into the artist. The art college he attended was traditional, and he learned that ‘painting the same person over and over … teaches you about seeing and reading colour. I had no idea there were so many pinks, blues, yellows, ochres and mauves in flesh’. For War Game (1993), Foreman re-imagined the First World War, and its Christmas Truce scenes in the trenches (‘No Man’s Land’) re-appear in Michael Foreman’s Christmas Treasury (1999).

In complete contrast are exuberant works such as Michael Foreman’s Nursery Rhymes (1991). Alongside traditional rhymes are riddles, lullabies, nonsense verse, tongue twisters, and amusing pictures: cats in coats decorated with fish, a ship crewed by mice, with a duck captain. There are intriguing links from one rhyme to the next. ‘Mary, Mary, How Does Your Garden Grow?’ is joined by characters from other rhymes, and ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ goes up one side of a hill while Jack and Jill come tumbling down the other. Michael Foreman’s Playtime Rhymes (2002) is a delightful companion volume, containing over seventy exuberant ‘action rhymes’, and a cast of animals, who dance round the mulberry bush, walk through the jungle and go to the fair, do the hokey-cokey and join the Teddy Bears’ picnic. We see an elephant in a sailor suit, or walking along a spider’s web. Iona Opie, in her introduction to the Nursery Rhymes, rightly called Foreman an artist ‘who possesses his own spyglass to look into the furthest corners of the old nursery dramas, finding possibilities and consequences never imagined before’.

Dr Jules Smith, 2004

Bibliography

2010
Why the Animals Came to Town, author/illustrator, Walker
2009
The Littlest Dinosaur's Big Advenure, author/illustrator, Walker
2009
Pirates Ahoy!, illustrator, Andersen Press
2009
A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope, author/illustrator, Walker
2008
The Little Dinosaur, author/illustrator, Walker
2008
The Lion Who Ate Everything, illustrator, Walker
2008
Soggy and the Mermaid, illustrator, Mabecron Books
2008
Kaspar, illustrator, HarperCollins
2007
White Owl, Barn Owl, illustrator, Candlewick
2007
The Mozart Question, illustrator, Walker
2007
Team Trouble, illustrator, Andersen Press
2007
Soggy to the Rescue, illustrator, Mabecron Books
2007
Soggy the Bear, illustrator, Mabecron Books
2007
Say Hello, illustrator, Walker
2007
Michael Forman's Classic Fairy Tales, adapter/illustrator, Pavilion
2006
Norman's Ark, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2006
Mia's Story, author/illustrator, Walker
2006
Fox Tale, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2006
Beowulf, illustrator, Candlewick
2005
Can't Catch Me!, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2004
Gentle Giant, illustrator, Collins
2004
Dolphin Boy, illustrator, Andersen Press
2003
Hello World, author/illustrator, Walker
2003
Cat on the Hill, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2003
Bobby, Charlton and the Mountain, illustrator, Andersen Press
2002
Wonder Goal, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2002
The Sleeping Sword, illustrator, Egmont
2002
The Last Wolf, illustrator, Doubleday
2002
Michael Foreman's Playtime Rhymes, author/illustrator, Walker
2002
Evie and the Man who Helped God, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2002
Dinosaur Time, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2002
Cool!, illustrator, Collins
2002
Bedtime Stories, illustrator, Chrysalis
2001
Toro! Toro!, illustrator, Collins
2001
Tom and the Pterosaur, illustrator, Walker
2001
The Wind in the Willows, illustrator, Pavilion
2001
Saving Sinbad, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2001
Out of the Ashes, illustrator, Macmillan
2000
Why Bear has a Stumpy Tail and Other Creation Stories from Around the World, illustrator, Walker
2000
The Lady and the Squire, illustrator, Pavilion
2000
Rock-a-doodle-doo!, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2000
Memories of Childhood, author/illustrator, Pavilion
2000
Cat in the Manger, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
2000
Billy the Kid, illustrator, Pavilion
1999
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, illustrator, Pavilion
1999
The Story of Millennia the Angel: A Fable of Hope for a New Generation, illustrator, Orchard
1999
The Shining Princess and Other Japanese Legends, illustrator, Andersen Press
1999
The Rainbow Bear, illustrator, Doubleday
1999
The Merrymaid of Zennor, illustrator, Orchard
1999
The Little Red Hen, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1999
Michael Foreman's Christmas Treasury, author/illustrator, Pavilion
1999
Kensuke's Kingdom, illustrator, Heinemann
1998
Joan of Arc of Domrémy, illustrator, Pavilion
1998
Jack's Big Race, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1998
Cockadoodle-doo Mr Sultana!, illustrator, Scholastic
1998
Chicken Licken, illustrator, Andersen Press
1997
The Little Ships, illustrator, Pavilion
1997
The Knight and the Squire, illustrator, Pavilion
1997
Look! Look!, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1997
Farm Boy, illustrator, Pavilion
1997
Creation: Stories from Around the World, illustrator, Walker
1997
Angel and the Box of Time, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1996
There's a Bear in the Classroom, illustrator, Pavilion
1996
The Songs My Paddle Sings: Native American Legends, illustrator, Pavilion
1996
The Little Reindeer, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1996
Seal Surfer, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1996
Robin of Sherwood, illustrator, Pavilion
1996
Peter Pan and Wendy, illustrator, Pavilion
1996
A Child's Garden of Verses, illustrator, Gollancz
1995
The Little Prince, illustrator, Pavilion
1995
Surprise! Surprise!, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1995
Shakespeare Stories II, illustrator, Gollancz
1995
Peter's Place, illustrator, Andersen Press
1995
After the War was Over, author/illustrator, Pavilion
1994
Wyvern Summer, illustrator, Andersen Press
1994
Wyvern Fall, illustrator, Andersen Press
1994
The Sea Tiger, illustrator, Pavilion
1994
The Fly-by-Night, illustrator, Pavilion
1994
Sarah and the Sandhorse, illustrator, Andersen Press
1994
Dad! I Can't Sleep, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1994
Arthur, High King of Britain, illustrator, Pavilion/The National Trust
1993
Wyvern Spring, illustrator, Andersen Press
1993
War Game, author/illustrator, Pavilion
1993
There's a Bear in the Bath, illustrator, Pavilion
1993
The Long Weekend, illustrator, Andersen Press
1993
The Beast with a Thousand Teeth, illustrator, Pavilion
1993
Grandfather's Pencil and the Room of Stories, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1993
Funnybunch: A New Puffin Book of Funny Verse, illustrator, Viking
1993
A Fish of the World, illustrator, Pavilion
1992
Wyvern Winter, illustrator, Andersen Press
1992
The Echoing Green, illustrator, Viking
1992
The Arabian Nights, illustrator, Gollancz
1992
Spider the Horrible Cat, illustrator, Pavilion
1992
Jack's Fantastic Voyage, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1992
Fantastic Stories, illustrator, Pavilion
1991
The Young Man of Cury and Other Poems, illustrator, Macmillan
1991
The Puffin Book of Twentieth-Century Verse, illustrator, Viking
1991
The Puffin Book of Twentieth-Century Children's Stories, illustrator, Viking
1991
The Boy Who Sailed with Columbus, joint author/illustrator, Pavilion
1991
Michael Foreman's Nursery Rhymes, editor/illustrator, Walker
1991
Busy! Busy! Busy!, illustrator, Andersen Press
1990
The Brothers Grimm: Popular Folk Tales, illustrator, Gollancz
1990
One World, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1990
Michael Foreman's World of Fairy Tales, editor/illustrator, Pavilion
1990
Michael Foreman's Mother Goose, editor/illustrator, Walker
1990
Michael Foreman, author/illustrator, Beetles
1989
War Boy: A Country Childhood, author/illustrator, Pavilion
1989
The Sand Horse, illustrator, Andersen Press
1989
Once Upon a Planet, illustrator, Puffin
1989
Land of the Long White Cloud : Maori Myths, Tales and Legends, illustrator, Pavilion
1988
Worms Wiggle, author/illustrator, Carnival
1988
The Night Before Christmas, illustrator, Viking
1988
The Magic Ointment and Other Cornish Legends, illustrator, Macmillan
1988
The Curse of the Vampire's Socks and Other Doggerel, illustrator, Pavilion
1988
The Angel and the Wild Animal, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1988
Edmond Went Far Away, illustrator, Walker
1987
The Jungle Book, illustrator, Puffin
1987
The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr Willy Wonka, illustrator, Unwin Hyman
1987
Just So Stories, illustrator, Viking
1987
Fun, illustrator, Gollancz
1987
Daphne du Maurier's Classics of the Macabre, illustrator, Gollancz
1987
Brontosaurus Superstar, illustrator, Magnet
1987
Ben's Baby, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1986
Tales for the Telling: Irish Folk and Fairy Stories, illustrator, Pavilion
1986
Panda and the Bushfire, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1986
Letters from Hollywood, illustrator, Harrap
1986
Early in the Morning: A Collection of New Poems, illustrator, Viking
1986
Ben's Box: A Pop-up Fantasy, author/illustrator, Hodder & Stoughton
1985
Shakespeare Stories, illustrator, Gollancz
1985
Seasons of Splendour: Tales, Myths and Legends of India, illustrator, Pavilion
1985
Poetic Gems, illustrator, Folio Society
1985
Nicobobinus, illustrator, Pavilion
1985
I'll Take You to Mrs Cole, illustrator, Andersen Press
1984
Poems for Over 10-year-olds, illustrator, Viking Kestrel
1984
Poems for 9-year-olds and Under, illustrator, Viking Kestrel
1984
Panda and the Bunyips, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1984
Cat and Canary, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1984
A Cat and Mouse Love Story, illustrator, Heinemann Quixote
1983
Treasure Island, illustrator, Puffin
1983
The Saga of Eric the Viking, illustrator, Pavilion
1983
The Brontosaurus Birthday Cake, illustrator, Methuen
1983
Poems for 7-Year-Olds and Under, illustrator, Viking Kestrel
1983
A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas, illustrator, Gollancz
1982
The Magic Mouse and the Millionaire, illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1982
The Crab That Played with the Sea, illustrator, Macmillan
1982
Sleeping Beauty and Other Favourite Fairy Tales, illustrator, Gollancz
1982
Long Neck and Thunder Foot, illustrator, Viking Kestrel
1982
Land of Dreams, author/illustrator, Andersen Press
1981
Trick a Tracker, author/illustrator, Gollancz
1981
The Nightingale and the Rose, joint illustrator, Kaye & Ward
1981
Panda and the Old Lion, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1981
Over the Bridge, illustrator, Viking Kestrel
1981
Fairy Tales, illustrator, Pavilion
1980
The Tiger Who Lost his Stripes, illustrator, Andersen Press
1980
The Pig Plantagenet, illustrator, Hutchinson
1980
The Faithful Bull, illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1980
City of Gold and Other Stories from the Old Testament, illustrator, Gollancz
1980
Alan Garner's Fairytales of Gold, illustrator, Collins
1980
After Many a Summer, illustrator, Folio Society
1979
Winter's Tales, author, Benn
1979
The Golden Brothers, illustrator, Collins
1979
The Girl of the Golden Gate, illustrator, Collins
1979
How to Catch a Ghost, illustrator, Holt (U.S.)
1979
Alan The Three Golden Heads of the Well, illustrator, Collins
1978
The Selfish Giant, illustrator, Kaye & Ward
1978
The Princess and the Golden Mane, illustrator, Collins
1978
The Aimer Gate, illustrator, Collins
1978
Popular Folk Tales: The Brothers Grimm, illustrator, Gollancz
1978
Mickey's Kitchen Contest, illustrator, Andersen Press
1978
Borrowed Feathers and Other Fables, joint illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1977
Tom Fobble's Day, illustrator, Collins
1977
Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman, illustrator, Andersen Press
1977
Panda's Puzzle, and his Voyage of Discovery, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1977
Granny Reardun, illustrator, Collins
1976
The Stone Book, illustrator, Collins
1976
Monkey and the Three Wizards, illustrator, Collins
1976
Hans Andersen: His Classic Fairy Tales, illustrator, Gollancz
1976
All the King's Horses, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1975
Rainbow Rider, illustrator, Collins
1975
Private Zoo, illustrator, Collins
1974
War and Peas, illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1973
The Pushcart War, illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1973
The Living Treasures of Japan, illustrator, Wildwood House
1973
Mr Noah and the Second Flood, illustrator, Gollancz
1973
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, illustrator, Allen & Unwin
1973
Alexander in the Land of Mog, illustrator, Brockhampton Press
1972
Fischer vs Spassky: Reykjavik 1972, illustrator, Penguin
1972
Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1971
The Living Arts of Nigeria, illustrator, Studio Vista
1971
Moose, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1971
James and the Giant Peach (adapted from part of the story), illustrator, Penguin
1970
The Birthday Unicorn, illustrator, Gollancz
1970
Horatio, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1970
Adam's Balm, illustrator, Bowmar (U.S.)
1969
Essex Poems, 1963-67, illustrator, Routledge & Kegan Paul
1969
Don't Rely on Gemini, jacket illustrator, Macmillan
1968
The Great Sleigh Robbery, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1968
Let's Fight! and Other Russian Fables, illustrator, Pantheon (U.S.)
1967
The Two Giants, author/illustrator, Brockhampton Press
1967
The Perfect Present, author/illustrator, Hamish Hamilton
1967
I'm for You, and You're for Me, illustrator, Abelard-Schuman
1966
The Bad Food Guide, illustrator, Routledge & Kegan Paul
1966
Making Music, illustrator, Longman
1966
Huit Enfants et un Bebe, illustrator, Abelard-Schuman
1964
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, illustrator, Allen & Unwin
1963
The King Who Lived on Jelly, illustrator, Routledge & Kegan Paul
1962
Poems by Children 1950-61, illustrator, Routledge & Kegan Paul
1961
The General, joint illustrator, Routledge & Kegan Paul
1961
Comic Alphabets: Their Origin, Development, Nature, illustrator, Routledge & Kegan Paul

Awards

1997
Nestlé Smarties Book Prize (Silver Award), The Little Reindeer, 9-11 years category
1993
Nestlé Smarties Book Prize (Gold Award), War Game, 9-11 years category and overall winner
1993
Kate Greenaway Medal, War Game, shortlist
1989
Kate Greenaway Medal, War Boy: A Country Childhood
1982
Kurt Maschler Award, Sleeping Beauty and Other Favourite Fairy Tales
1982
Kate Greenaway Medal, Long Neck and Thunder Foot
1980
Bologna Children's Book Fair Graphics Prize, City of Gold
1977
National Art Library Illustration Award, Monkey and The Three Wizards
1977
Francis Williams Award for Illustration, War and Peas
1972
National Art Library Illustration Award, Horatio
1972
Festival International du Livre Aigle d'Argent Award
1971
Francis Williams Award for Illustration, Horatio

Author Statement

He comes from the same wide skies and melting sunsets as the greatest of his fellow water colourists, John Sell Cotman, Peter de Wint and J M W Turner. But, unlike them, he paints more than landscapes. Michael Foreman paints dreams.   You will find his gentle tones and vibrant colours in bookshop windows, on classroom shelves, in a million children's bedrooms up and down the landscape and in dozens of lands too!   He can take us to the soaring mountains of New Zealand in his Maori tales (Land of the Long White Cloud), or to the ghastly wilderness of the No Man's Land of the First World War (War Game).   Somehow he brings us close, draws us into his pictures, involves us. His range, breadth and depth, are extraordinary, his interpretation breathtaking.   Michael Morpurgo