Michael RosenWith a faultless ear for poetry and expert comic timing, Michael Rosen has been writing and performing his work for children since the 1970’s. A former Children’s Laureate, Rosen is one of the most familiar and distinctive writers (and voices) in children’s literature, having written and collaborated on more than 150 books of stories, jokes and poetry for all ages, including Michael Rosen’s Book of Nonsense, Little Rabbit Foo Foo and, of course, the unforgettable classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Michael Rosen lists amongst his prodigious talents - which include playing the harmonica - a knack for reading his own poetry aloud. It’s a talent many children (and adults) will have experienced at first-hand, since Rosen has long been a regular visitor to schools across the county and still visits several every week to perform his own verse and teach children about poetry.
It’s All Worth Knowing
Once described as ‘a big energetic cartoon of a man’ (he has been compared to Roald Dahl’s BFG in the past!), Rosen seems born to perform and possess an uncanny ability to know exactly the stories and verse that will have children howling with laughter.
Brought up in Harrow, both his parents were sometime teachers and he credits them with teaching him to always be curious, to have what he calls ‘long antennae’ and never dismiss any information as useless; they taught him to ‘be curious, all knowledge is worth it’.
Although his first ever job was memorably as a chicken-plucker, after graduating he began working for the BBC (Rosen is still a regular presenter on BBC Radio 4, appearing on programmes such as Word of Mouth) and started to publish poetry: his first collection, enititled Mind Your Own Business (illustrated by his long-term collaborator and friend Quentin Blake) appeared in 1974.
We’re Going on a…
Rosen established a reputation as a children’s poet and played a significant part in opening up children’s access to poetry, particularly in schools.
In 1989 he collaborated with Helen Oxenbury on the classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt; the two worked completely independently so that Rosen confesses to being as surprised as anyone by the illustrations, which turned the sing-song performance of his words into a family drama. Oxenbury claimed she modelled the muddy scenes on the Suffolk mudflats and the rocky beach, where the bear's cave is located, on a holiday in Druidstone, Pembrokeshire.
The book was an instant success, winning the Smarties Book Prize Gold Award and has gone on to become a stage play and more than one successful animation. It still, of course, holds pride of place on the shelves of every Waterstones in the country.
Tickling Your Funny Bone
Since then Rosen has gone on to publish over a hundred books for children, including Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy, Michael Rosen’s Book of Nonsense, Little Rabbit Foo Foo and more recently Jelly Boots, Smelly Boots.
A father of five, Rosen was awarded the English Association Exceptional Book Award for his moving and honest portrayal of grief after the death of his son Eddie in Michael Rosen’s Sad Book.
Awarded the Children’s Laureateship in 2007, one of his primary achievements was establishing The Roald Dahl Funny Prize to counteract the lack of recognition for humorous books for children. Describing himself as Dahl’s biggest fan, Rosen wrote a biography of the author for children, Fantastic Mr Dahl.
Rosen is an active campaigner, particularly around education, and his enthusiasm for the endless possibilities of children’s imaginations is infectious. 'Sometimes when I sit with children,' he said, 'when they have the space to talk and write about such things, I have the feeling that I am privileged to be the kind of person who is asked to be part of it.’