Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Janet Ahlberg (21 October 1944 – 13 November 1994), née Janet Hall and
Allan Ahlberg (born 1938) were a British married couple who created many children’s books, including picture books that regularly appear at the top of “most popular” lists for public libraries.
Janet was born in Yorkshire and brought up in Leicester. The Ahlbergs met while enrolled in a teacher training course at Sunderland Technical College and married in 1969. They worked together for 20 years until Janet died of cancer in 1994.
Allan wrote the books and Janet illustrated them.
Allan dreamt of being a writer – although he didn’t actually write: “I had all the romantic notions of the white suit and the panama hat – all the Somerset Maugham images without any words to support them.” It was Janet who opened the lock.
Janet and Allan Ahlberg were married and settled near Leicester. Allan was working as a primary school teacher and Janet had started illustrating. She asked her young husband to write her a story.
Probably the Ahlbergs’s greatest success was The Jolly Postman, published by Heinemann in 1986; Allan Ahlberg told The Guardian in 2006 that it had sold over six million copies. It made innovative use of envelopes to include letters, cards, games and a tiny book.
Influenced by comics and cartoons, their perfect partnership went on to produce masterpieces including Peepo!, Each Peach Pear Plum and The Baby’s Catalogue.
These books have all become children’s classics, with their rhythmic prose, their mix of dottiness and sentiment appealing both to young children and to the parents who read them aloud.
Allan has authored of more than 140 published books, including two in 2004 illustrated by his daughter Jessica, who is a professional illustrator. Father and daughter have collaborated again, completing a movable picture book published late in 2012, The Goldilocks Variations (Walker), “a new twist in an old fairy tale”.
Since Janet’s sadly premature death in 1994, Allan has continued to work, recently producing his beautiful tribute to her, Janet’s Last Book, and continues to create wonderful books for children of all ages.
‘The Ahlbergs belong with A. A. Milne and Lewis Caroll, to the greatest tradition of British children’s books, having the kind of genius that can dominate an era’ – Sunday Times