Jonathan Langley was born in Lancaster on 31 October 1952. He studied at Lancaster College of Art, Liverpool College of Art, the Central School of Art and Design and Camberwell School of Art. Quickly establishing himself as a freelance illustrator and designer, he has been greatly in demand in a variety of fields, particularly as a children’s book illustrator. His work was first shown at Chris Beetles in 1986. Although he has illustrated classic books such as The Wind in the Willows (1984), The Wizard of Oz (1985) and three of Kipling’s Just So Stories (1988), Langley is best known for his million-selling nursery rhyme books and his retelling and illustrating of much-loved nursery tales, including The Three Billy Goats Gruff and Little Red Riding Hood, as well as the popular farmyard series of books written by Michael Rosen: Snore!, Oww! and Shoo! It is his anarchic sense of humour, seen in both illustrations and text, which appeals particularly to children. Parents worldwide will testify to nightly re-readings of his books and millions of well- thumbed, broken-backed and dog-eared copies of his works reside on the nursery shelf beside the favourite teddy.
Children love to revisit his illustrations finding something different on each viewing. The feisty princesses and house-proud bears may take centre stage but there is a background world in his pictures where creatures and insects of all kinds go about their business quite oblivious to the story in hand. Whilst his reinterpretations of nursery tales may basically follow the original stories there is something of the anarchy of the English pantomime tradition that inhabits Jonathan Langley’s world. Characters and happy-ever-after endings can be unpredictable and, whilst traditional nursery tale costumes and settings are mostly observed, this does not prevent football boots and electric drills being taken for granted. It is this marriage of ancient and modern and his popularity with children that has put many of Jonathan Langley’s books on recommended lists for nursery and primary schools. Whilst Jonathan’s work may appear to be in the English tradition of book illustration his mischievousness and good humoured mayhem may surprise and confound an adult but are understood and well loved by children.