Ian Beck began his career in graphic design, successfully illustrating “for grown-ups” before turning his talents to picture books in 1982. He now has over fifty books for children to his credit (including his own stories as well as books written by others). He is especially known for his teddy bear stories and for illustrating fairy tales. His first novel for older children, The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, Boy Adventurer, will be published in June 2006. Originally from Brighton, Ian spent several years in London before settling with his family in St Margarets in 1988, in a small house “bursting with books and people”. Much of his work has been inspired by local places, such as Old Deer Park in Richmond, the Thames, and Ian’s own house and street.
Walter de la Mare was a major influence on twentieth-century children’s literature, and many of his works, such as the book of rhymes Peacock Pie (1913), have endured. He is primarily remembered as a poet, although he also wrote stories and edited anthologies, for both children and adults. His writing, particularly his verse, is described as mysterious, dreamlike and musical, and he liked to write about childhood, animals, fairies and dreamland. From 1940 until his death, the writer took a flat in the top two stories of South End House, Montpelier Row in Twickenham (the same row where Alfred Tennyson had once lived).
Although he did write several books especially for children, Charles Dickens was so celebrated among the Victorians that children of his day also read his novels and especially his Christmas stories. His works remain immensely popular, although today young people are perhaps more likely to be familiar with their many stage and screen adaptations. In any case, Charles Dickens is regarded as one of the most significant writers in Britain’s history. He lived all over London, including Twickenham and Petersham, and many of his novels include scenes set in or around this area.
From 1850 to 1856, Francis Turner Palgrave was a vice-principal at Kneller Hall in Whitton, Twickenham, which was then a training college for teachers of children in the workhouses (now home to the Royal Military School of Music). When the school closed, he worked for the Education Department, writing literary and artistic criticism in his free time. In 1860, while on a walking tour of Cornwall with his friend Alfred Tennyson, he suggested that the pair compile a collection of the best poetry. The result was The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language (1861), a book so successful that it has remained in print ever since. He was buried in the cemetery at Barnes Common.
Many of Alfred Tennyson’s lyrical poems, including “The Lady of Shalott” (1832) and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1855) are regularly anthologized for children. From 1851 to 1853, the poet lived at Chapel House, (now No. 15) Montpelier Row, Twickenham, the same row where the poet Walter de la Mare was to live nearly a century later. In 1851 Alfred was newly married and had just been appointed Poet Laureate. Although he would soon tire of Twickenham, Chapel House impressed him greatly.
Eleanor Updale is the author of the Montmorency series of Victorian adventure stories. Having lived all around South London, Ellie moved with her family to Richmond in 2001.
Formerly a BBC TV and radio producer and editor, Ellie became a published author relatively recently. Her first novel, Montmorency (Scholastic Press, 2003), was an immediate success and won two awards. Since then, Ellie has written and published one Montmorency novel per year. For Montmorency on the Rocks, the second novel in the series, Ellie set some of the most dramatic scenes in Kew Gardens, including a fight scene at the top of the Pagoda.
The daughter of the best-loved children’s book author and illustrator Shirley Hughes, Clara Vulliamy was encouraged to draw and paint from an early age. Clara now illustrates children’s books by other writers, as well as her own. Her picture books tend to be realistic portrayals of the big moments in a young child’s life.
Living with her artist husband and two children in a large house in Twickenham, she is inspired by the things she sees around her. Many of her illustrations depict everyday places close to Clara’s home in Twickenham, such as neighbouring houses and the local school.