Allan Ahlberg

Image by Martin Salter

Allan Ahlberg

b. 1938

I like the idea of leaving the house and going somewhere else, quite small, a little room where I can make a cup of coffee and gaze out of the window, think of various things and occasionally write the odd word. . . - Allan Ahlberg

About Allan Ahlberg

Allan Ahlberg (b. 1938) is one of Britain's best-loved children's writers. The author of over a hundred books, Allan has been delighting children of all ages for more than thirty years. Classic characters like Burglar Bill and The Jolly Postman have become firm favourites with a generation of children who are now reading them to their own offspring. Allan's work - particularly in partnership with his first wife, Janet, - has been recognised by many of the top awards in children's books, including The Kate Greenaway Medal (twice), The Children's Book Award (twice) and The Signal Poetry Award. Innovative, funny and moving, his work encompasses storybooks, picture books, easy readers, joke books and novels as well as poems.

Allan used to work as a teacher and perhaps this is one of the reasons his writing shows such a sharp insight into the hearts and minds of young children. His poems provide vivid glimpses into the colourful life of school: what exactly is it that's hiding in Harrison's desk? Where does Billy McBone's mind get to? And just what did happen to all those scissors? Although his poems are often amusing, he doesn't ignore the more painful side of school as in the poignant monologue 'Slow Reader' or the memory of 'The Boy Without a Name'. Allan also draws on his own Black Country childhood in poems like 'The Match c. 1950' and 'Cemetery Road'. Football is an abiding passion. His choice of poems from Friendly Matches - with many a neat twist or cunning swerve - celebrates the beautiful game.

Allan's recording for the Archive takes in longer narrative poems such as 'Cops and Robbers' with its chorus that's just asking to be joined in with and shorter lyric pieces. He even sings one! Adept at creating his characters' voices, Allan's reading, like his writing, is warm and engaging.

His recording was made on 18 November 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Interviews and other readings

Allan Ahlberg interview

School assemblies, football and folk songs are just some of the...

Collected Poems, Puffin 2008

Everybody was a baby once, Walker Books 2010

Friendly Matches, Penguin, 2001


The Mysteries of Zigomar, London, Walker, 1997


Heard it in the Playground, Penguin, 1989


The Mighty Slide, Penguin, 1988

Please Mrs Butler, Penguin Books, 2003


Cops and Robbers, London, Heinemann/Penguin, 1978


1978 Kate Greenaway Medal, Each Peach Pear Plum

Prize website

1985 Parents' Magazine Best Book for Babies Award

1986 Kate Greenaway Medal, The Jolly Postman

Prize website

1986 Kurt Maschler Award, The Jolly Postman

Prize website

1987 The Children's Book Award

1989 Signal Poetry Award, Heard it in the Playground

Prize website

1994 British Book Award: Children's Author of the Year

Prize website

2001 The Blue Peter Children's Book Award

Prize website

2002 The Children's Book Award: Books for Young Children winner


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1Please Mrs Butler

2Slow Reader




6Harrison's Desk

7Bags I

8Billy McBone

9The Infants Do an Assembly about Time

10The Boy Without a Name

11A Pair of Sinners

12Where I Sit Writing

13The Vampire and the Hound

14The Actor's Mother

15Cemetery Road

16The Slow Man

17Talk Us Through it, Charlotte

18Mr Bloor

19Friendly Matches

20Dad on the Line

21Team Talk

22The Match (c 1950)

23Who Kicked Cock Robin?

24The Lovely Ball of Leather

25Dream Football

26Cops and Robbers

27Test track

28Test track 2

32Test track