Ahlberg at 70
Janet Ellis meets children's author Allan Ahlberg to reflect on his career and influence.
Allan Ahlberg is an institution in children's literature. Books such as Burglar Bill, Each Peach Pear Plum, The Jolly Postman and Peepo became immediate hits with parents and children and have remained hugely popular ever since.
Ahlberg has been writing children's fiction for over 30 years. His popularity is such that he has sold 17 million copies of his 150-plus titles. His books are regularly in the chart of most-borrowed children's authors, and have been in the top ten every year for the past decade.
Ahlberg was adopted and grew up in the Black Country. At the age of 13 he 'became an intellectual snob and joined three libraries'. On leaving school he worked as a postman, a soldier, a plumber's mate and a gravedigger. It was a superintendent of parks and cemeteries that suggested Allan become a teacher.
He began writing in his 30s when his wife Janet asked him to write something for her to illustrate. He sought 'to produce William Morris books at Penguin prices'.
Janet Ellis read his books to her children. She uses archive, readings and expert opinion to assess Ahlberg's life and work.