Chris Riddell (1962–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
(Christopher Barry Riddell)
Born 1962, in Capetown, South Africa; Education: Attended Epsom School of Art and Design, 1980–81; Brighton Polytechnic, B.A. (first-class honours), 1984.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Andersen Press, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 2SA, England.
Freelance illustrator and writer. Political cartoonist for London periodicals, including Economist, 1988–95, Independent, Independent on Sunday, Guardian, and Observer, beginning 1995. Producer of cover art for Literary Review, beginning 1997, and New Statesman.
Kate Greenaway Medal special commendation, 1995, and UNESCO Prize, 1997, both for Something Else; Ragazza Prize honorable mention, Bologna Book Fair, and Kurt Maschler Award shortlist, both 1998, both for The Swan's Stories; Kate Greenaway Medal, 2002, for Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, and 2004, for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver; (with Paul Stewart) Smarties Award, 2004, for Fergus Crane.
Ben and the Bear, Walker (New York, NY), 1985.
Mr. Underbed, Holt (New York, NY), 1986.
Bird's New Shoes, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.
The Fibbs, Walker (New York, NY), 1988.
The Trouble with Elephants, Walker (New York, NY), 1988.
When the Walrus Comes, Walker (New York, NY), 1989.
The Bear Dance, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.
The Wish Factory, Walker (New York, NY), 1990.
The World of Zoom, Walker (New York, NY), 1993.
Platypus, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Platypus and the Lucky Day, edited by Karrie A. Oswald, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Platypus and the Birthday Party, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2003.
WITH PAUL STEWART; AND ILLUSTRATOR
Fergus Crane ("Far-Flung Adventures" series), Doubleday (London, England), 2004, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Corby Flood, Doubleday Children's (London, England), 2005.
"EDGE CHRONICLES"; WITH PAUL STEWART; AND ILLUSTRATOR
Beyond the Deepwoods, Doubleday (London, England), 1998, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Stormchaser, Doubleday (London, England), 1999, David Fickling Books (New York, NY) 2004.
Midnight over Sanctaphrax, Doubleday (London, England), 2000, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Curse of the Gloamglozer, Doubleday (London, England), 2001, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2005.
The Last of the Sky Pirates, Doubleday (London, England), 2002, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Vox, Doubleday (London, England), 2003.
The Edge Chronicles Maps, Corgi (London, England), 2004.
Freeglader, Doubleday (London, England), 2004, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Winter Knights, Doubleday (London, England), 2005.
"BLOBHEADS" SERIES; ILLUSTRATOR
Invasion of the Blobs, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Talking Toasters, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
School Stinks, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Beware of the Babysitter, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Garglejuice, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Silly Billy, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Naughty Gnomes, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Purple Alert!, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Blobheads (omnibus), Macmillan (London, England), 2003.
Blobheads Go Boing!, Macmillan (London, England), 2004.
"MUDDLE EARTH" SERIES; WITH PAUL STEWART; AND ILLUSTRATOR
Muddle Earth, Macmillan (London, England), 2003.
Here Be Dragons, Macmillan (London, England), 2004.
Dr. Cuddles of Giggle Glade, Macmillan (London, England), 2004.
"KNIGHT'S STORY" SERIES; WITH PAUL STEWART; AND ILLUSTRATOR
Free Lance and the Lake of Skulls, Hodder (London, England), 2003, published as Lake of Skulls, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Free Lance and the Field of Blood, Hodder (London, England), 2004, published as Joust of Honor, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.
Free Lance and the Dragon's Hoard, Hodder (London, England), 2005, published as Dragon's Hoard, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.
Sarah Hayes, reteller, Gruesome Giants, Derrydale Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Mary Hoffman, Beware, Princess!, Heinemann (London, England), 1986.
Ted Hughes, Fangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1986.
Kate Andrew, Beyond the Rolling River, Collins (London, England), 1988.
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan, Magnet, 1988.
Ted Hughes, Moon-Whales, revised edition, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1988.
Mary Hoffman, Dracula's Daughter, Heinemann (London, England), 1988, Barron's (New York, NY), 1989.
Robert McCrum, The Dream Boat Brontosaurus, Methuen (London, England), 1989.
Andrew Gibson, Ellis and the Hummick, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1989.
Andrew Gibson, The Abradizil, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1990.
Kate Andrew, The Prism Tree, Collins (London, England), 1990.
Kathryn Cave, Henry Hobbs, Alien, Viking (London, England) 1990.
Kathryn Cave, Jumble, Blackie (London, England), 1991.
Helen Cresswell, Lizzie Dripping and the Witch, BBC Books (London, England), 1991.
Andrew Gibson, Jemima, Grandma, and the Great Lost Zone, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1991.
Kathryn Cave, Out for the Count: A Counting Adventure, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 1991.
Freida Hughes, The Thing in the Sink, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Catherine Baker, editor, An Armful of Bears (poetry), Methuen (London, England), 1993.
Andrew Gibson, The Amazing Witherspoon's Amazing Circus Crew, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1993.
Kathryn Cave, Something Else, Viking (London, England), 1994, Mondo (Greenvale, NY), 1998.
Freida Hughes, Rent-a-Friend, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Miles Gibson, Say Hello to the Buffalo, Heinemann (London, England), 1994.
Andrew Gibson, Chegwith Skillett Escapes, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1995.
Ted Hughes, Collected Animal Poems, Volume 1: The Iron Wolf, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1995.
Louise Howard, Buddhism for Sheep, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Kathryn Cave, The Emperor's Gruckle Hound, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1996.
Alan Durant, Angus Rides the Goods Train, Viking (London, England), 1996.
Hans Christian Andersen, The Swan's Stories, selected and translated by Brian Aldersen, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.
Roger McGough, Until I Met Dudley: How Everyday Things Really Work, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.
Philip Ridley, Kasper in the Glitter, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
Louise Howard, Feng Shui for Cats, Ebury Press (London, England), 1997.
Louise Howard, Feng Shui for Dogs, Ebury Press (London, England), 1997.
Freida Hughes, The Tall Story, Macdonald (London, England), 1997.
Kathryn Cave, Horatio Happened, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1998.
Paul Stewart, A Little Bit of Winter, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Kathryn Cave, William and the Wolves, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.
Richard Platt, Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Walker (New York, NY), 1999.
Claire Nielson, Buddhism for Bears, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Paul Stewart, The Birthday Presents, Andersen Press (London, England), 1999, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Paul Stewart, Rabbit's Wish, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Claire Nielson, The Tao For Babies, Seastone (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
Richard Platt, Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Paul Stewart, What Do You Remember?, Random House (London, England), 2003.
Martin Jenkins, abridger, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Chris Riddell is an author and award-winning illustrator whose lively, color-filled books for young readers include Ben and the Bear, The Wish Factory, and The Trouble with Elephants, while work for older readers includdes coauthoring and illustrating the "Edge Chronicles" fantasy series with Paul Stewart. Known in particular as an illustrator, Riddell is credited with bringing to life texts by authors such as Kathryn Cave, Andrew Gibson, and Jonathan Swift. Of Riddell's work on The Swan's Stories, a collection of tales by Hans Christian Andersen, Horn Book contributor Ann A. Flowers described the "superb" illustrations as "a cross between [Arthur] Rackham and [E.H.] Shepard with a touch of Carl Larsson" and dubbed it "a beautiful book."
Riddell was born in 1962 in Capetown, South Africa, but moved to London as a child and attended British schools. He graduated from Brighton Polytechnic in 1984 with a honors degree in visual communications. His first published book, Ben and the Bear, appeared in 1985, the same year his illustrations began appearing in picture books by other authors.
The humorous Ben and the Bear was quickly followed by Mr. Underbed and Bird's New Shoes, the last in which Riddell pokes fun at the world of high fashion. Bird's latest fashion find, a pair of bright red shoes, causes Rat to covet a pair—or two—of his own. Of course, a new tie would set off the shoes, and when Rat parades around in his dashing new duds, Warthog simply must have not only the same shoes, but an equally snazzy tie as well. And so goes the one-upmanship in a book that a Publishers Weekly contributor called "a fun picture book with a simple story line." Particular praise was lavished on Riddell's vibrantly colored illustrations: a Publishers Weekly critic dubbed them "bright, busy, and cartoony," while in School Library Journal critic Lauralyn Persson added that "the animals are cleverly drawn" and reveal "lots of innate comic personality."
In The Trouble with Elephants a young girl's much-loved stuffed elephant causes her to imagine problems that living with real elephants might cause: pink rings in the bathtub, snoring at night, and terribly unfair games of see-saw and hide-and-go-seek. And never mind letting them ride on your bicycle, even once, or they'll squash it flat! Amid this litany of elephantine flaws scampers a herd of happy-go-lucky elephants whose demeanor is "sure to elicit grins," according to School Library Journal contributor Lori A. Janick. Phillis Wilson also praised The Trouble with Elephants in a review for Booklist, commenting that Riddell's "use of exaggeration is a delightful addition to the gently engaging narrative."
The Wish Factory again delves into a child's imagination while focusing on a child's bedtime. Here, young Oliver is taken to a magical place in the clouds called the Wish Factory, where he is given a wish to be used the next time a bad dream threatens to disturb his sleep. Called "a beautifully illustrated … picture book in nighttime colors" by School Librarian contributor Margaret Banerjee, The Wish Factory also received praise from critic Liz Waterland, who noted in her review for Books for Keeps that readers "will find [Riddell's] story straightforward and reassuring, especially if they're afraid of the dark."
In Platypus readers meet an interesting character who loves to collect special things, including a marble, an acorn, and a sneaker. Platypus feels his accumulation is not complete, however, and when he waddles to the seaside in search of a special something to complete his prized collection, he discovers a beautiful, curly shell. Tired after discovering this prize, he takes a quick nap, only to wake up and discover that the shell is gone! After a second shell disappears in a similar fashion, Platypus realizes a hermit crab had been living in the first shell and has made the second shell his new home. "Riddell conveys his message subtly and with good humor," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who also commented that the author/illustrator's "crisp watercolor illustration, finely accented in black ink, stands out against the stark white page." A Publishers Weekly reviewer pointed out that "Riddell's well-paced plotting makes the mystery and resolution equally enticing" for two-to-five-year-olds.
Platypus returns in both Platypus and the Lucky Day and Platypus and the Birthday Party, the last which finds the engaging hero planning a party for his favorite stuffed animal friend. In Platypus and the Lucky Day, Platypus is sure that this particular day will be his lucky day. When he goes outside to fly his kite, however, it gets stuck in a tree. When he tries to paint a picture, the wind blows it away, and then it begins to rain. When other not-so-fun things continue to happen, he decides that back in bed is the safest place to be, and the discovery of a lost toy under the covers inspires Platypus to give the day one more try. Describing Platypus as a "winsome character," a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Riddell's story is "comical in its own low-key way"; "what succeeds here," the critic added, "is the note of cheery hope."
In 1998 Riddell began a collaboration with neighbor and children's author Paul Stewart that has produced a number of unique books. Meeting as a result of the fact that their children attended the same school, the two also respected each other's work, and eventually became friends. The "Edge Chronicles" came about when Riddell drew a map and gave it to Stewart, who invented a story about the world Riddell had drawn. As reported by a Bookseller writer, Stewart explained that "Chris and I live so close that I just go down to his house and we usually work in his studio"—a converted coach house at the bottom of his garden. "We sit in two chairs, sometimes have red wine, and just make each other laugh. Sometimes he'll draw a picture and it'll be fantastic, so I'll have to come up with that character in the book…. By the end it's gone through so many conversations, back and forth, that it's often impossible to remember who came up with an idea first."
The creative collaboration between Riddell and Stewart has produced the "Edge Chronicles," a series of middle-grade novels that feature illustrations by Riddell. The first novel in the series, Beyond the Deepwoods, introduces Twig, a woodtroll who is shunned because he is taller and lankier than the other short, stout woodtrolls. When Twig's mother decides her son is old enough, she tells him that he is not really a woodtroll, but was found, abandoned, as a small infant. Realizing that he his an outsider in woodtroll society, Twig decides to leaves the beaten path and strike out on his own in the wider world. In search of his past as well as his destiny, he makes several friends, encounters all sorts of creatures, including Banderbears, shrykes, nightwaifs, halitoads, wigwigs, carnivorous Bloodoak trees, trogs, and the horrific, shapeshifting Gloamglozer before ultimately locating his father. In a review of Beyond the Deepwoods for Green Man Review online, Marian McHugh praised Riddell and Stewart for creating a story that allows readers to "make new friends as well as lose some that have become dear, but overall have a rollicking good time." McHugh also praised Riddell's "wonderful pen drawings" that "fully complement the story" and pointed out that "it is obvious … that both author and illustrator have worked closely together to produce this novel." Noting that the illustrations "create a strong sense of the believable, well-imagined" fantasy world, Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan called Beyond the Deepwoods "an inventive, promising start" to the series.
Other novels in the "Edge Chronicles" series include Stormchaser, Midnight over Sanctaphrax, The Curse of the Gloamglozer, and The Last of the Sky Pirates. In the flat Edge world creatures of all sorts live in floating cities and skyships. The first three novels follow Twig as he becomes a sky-pirate under the tutelage of his sky-pilot father and ultimately helps to save his world from the threat posed by the Guardians of the Night. Midnight over Sanctaphrax, in which Twig saves a floating city that is chained to the Edge and peopled by a group of highly competitive alchemists, apprentices, and scholars was described by School Library Journal critic Lisa Prolman as "a good adventures story with a very Hobbit-like feel" in which the coauthors also address "issues of slavery and class structure."
In The Curse of the Gloamglozer Stewart and Riddell backtrack to the time before Twig's birth, and relate the adventures of the young sky-captain's father, Quint. Apprenticed to Sanctaphrax scholar Linius Pallitax, Quint studies by day and is sent on strange missions at night by his master. Eventually, with the help of Pallitax's daughter Maris (who becomes Twig's mother), Quint learns that the scholar is up to no good and sets about rescuing the floating city.
The Last of the Sky Pirates, Vox, and Freeglader take place fifty years in the future, as the Edge has become an even darker place. Apprentice scholar/knight Rook Barkwater is making a dangerous journey into the Deepwoods in a quest for knowledge when he comes upon Twig and joins the forces mounting against the Guardians of the Night. His master scholar, Vox Verlix, is up to no good, and Rook must thwart the evil academe's quest for power, a quest that threatens the entire Edge world. Noting that the series is best known for its "imaginative settings" and its wealth of imaginative—and sometimes ruthless—creatures, School Library Journal reviewer Jenna Miller noted that readers new to the "Edge Chronicles" will find The Curse of the Gloamglozer "complete and satisfying on its own." Citing the "icky monsters, profoundly rotten villains, and shiny striving heroes" in the series, Walter Minkel wrote in a School Library Journal review of The Last of the Sky Pirates that Riddell's "antique-style illustrations add to the fun."
Riddell and Stewart have also joined forces in several other heavily illustrated novel series, including "Knight's Story" and "Blobheads," both of which hold particular appeal among middle-grade boys due to their wacky humor and Riddell's illustrations. They have also produced several books for younger readers, featuring Stewart's text and Riddell's illustrations. Two of their most popular characters, Rabbit and Hedgehog, appeared in A Little Bit of Winter, The Birthday Presents, and Rabbit's Wish. In a review of Rabbit's Wish for Booklist, Helen Rosenberg wrote that Riddell's "soft, expressive watercolor illustrations are a good match for this story about friendship," a stor,y Rosenberg pointed out, that shares similarities with the popular "Frog and Toad" books by children's author Arnold Lobel. In School Library Journal, Ann Cook also praised Riddell's artistry, commenting that his "gentle" illustrations "underscore the joy these creatures share and the anxiety they feel when each thinks the other is in danger."
In addition to his work with Stewart, Riddell continues to illustrate books for other authors. His work for Richard Platt's Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, about a nine-year-old boy who endures a brutal sea voyage on the ship of wicked Captain Nick, only to end up in the hands of much more easy-to-get-along-with pirates, was praised by Booklist contributor Shelle Rosenfeld as "colorful" and "dynamic." Anne Chapman Callaghan, who reviewed Pirate Diary for School Library Journal, wrote that the "myriad ink-and-watercolor illustrations help illuminate the dramatic events" of the story. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented on the variety of drawings Riddell scatters throughout the text, including "spot illustrations, dramatic full-page and full-spread scenes, and a detailed cutaway of the ship." The reviewer concluded that "with verve and puckish humor, they easily transport readers to high times on the high seas."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 15, 1988, Phillis Wilson, review of The Trouble with Elephants, p. 413; October 15, 2001, Helen Rosenberg, review of Rabbit's Wish, p. 402; December 15, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, p. 732; July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Beyond the Deepwoods, p. 1844; November 1, 2005, Brian Wilson, review of Beyond the Deepwoods (audiobook), p. 68.
Books, autumn, 2001, review of Platypus, p. 18.
Bookseller, January 24, 2003, review of Muddle Earth, p. 29; July 18, 2003, "Briggs' Blooming Books," pp. 22-23.
Books for Keeps, March, 1988, Jill Bennett, review of Mr. Underbed, p. 17; November, 1992, Liz Waterland, review of The Wish Factory, p. 16.
Horn Book, November-December, 1997, Ann A. Flowers, review of The Swan's Stories, p. 689.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Platypus, p. 577; July 1, 2002, review of Platypus and the Lucky Day, p. 962; July 1, 2004, review of Beyond the Deepwoods, p. 637.
Observer (London, England), October 28, 2001, review of Platypus, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, February 27, 1987, review of Bird's New Shoes, p. 164; June 4, 2001, review of Rabbit's Wish, p. 82; October 22, 2001, review of Pirate Diary, p. 77; April 15, 2002, review of Platypus, p. 62; July 8, 2002, review of Platypus and the Lucky Day, p. 51; June 16, 2003, review of What Do You Remember?, p. 73; August 25, 2003, review of Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, p. 67.
School Librarian, February, 1991, Margaret Banerjee, review of The Wish Factory, p. 20; winter, 2004, Irene Babsky, review of Fergus Crane, p. 204; spring, 2005, Robin Barlow, review of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, p. 35; autumn, 2005, review of Corby Flood, p. 147.
School Library Journal, September, 1987, Lauralyn Persson, review of Bird's New Shoes, p. 169; March, 1989, Lori A. Janick, review of The Trouble with Elephants, pp. 168-69; July, 2001, Ann Cook, review of Rabbit's Wish, p. 89; December, 2001, Anne Chapman Cal-laghan, review of Pirate Diary, p. 142; June, 2002, Lisa Dennis, review of Platypus, p. 109; November, 2002, Bina Williams, review of Platypus and the Lucky Day, p. 134; December, 2003, Andrea Tarr, review of Platypus and the Birthday Party, p. 124; September, 2004, Erin Gray, review of Lake of Skulls, p. 218; October, 2004, Lisa Prolman, review of Midnight over Sanctaphrax, p. 178; February, 2005, Jenna Miller, review of The Curse of the Gloamglozer, p. 140; June, 2005, Walter Minkel, review of The Last of the Sky Pirates, p. 170; August, 2005, Walter Minkel, review of Joust of Honor, p. 136.
Edge Chronicles Web site, http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/edgechronicles/ (December 24, 2005).
Green Man Review Online, http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (April 27, 2004), Marian McHugh, review of Beyond the Deepwoods.
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