‘It was a duo that was made in heaven’: Why we love Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Author of over 100 children’s books with his late wife Janet, Allan Ahlberg created well-loved classics such as Each Peach Pear Plum and the Jolly Postman. We asked a selection of Puffin authors to share their favourite Janet and Allan books and memories.

Puffin team

Robin Stevens, author of the Murder Most Unladylike series

Each Peach Pear Plum was the first book I ever remember caring enough about to stare at. I remember poring over it obsessively, trying to find all of the little details hidden in each picture. Each one was a puzzle to work out (I was already a mystery-solving baby), and I loved the danger on each page. Was Baby Bunting really going to be safe? Were Jack and Jill hurt? Did Robin Hood actually hit the witch with his arrow? Each Peach Pear Plum taught me at a very early age that peril made a plot fun, that you were allowed to play with familiar stories and turn them into your own unique ideas, and (of course) that all of the best books have food in them.’

Sophie Kinsella, author of Mummy Fairy and Me

'Each Peach Pear Plum taught me at a very early age that peril made a plot fun'

I adore Each Peach Pear Plum. It’s one of those perfect children’s books that you return to again and again. It has the comforting familiarity of fairy tale characters and a lilting rhythm that makes the pages fly by. But like all the books by Allan and Janet, it’s also supremely witty, and a treat for both adults and children. The ‘I spy’ game never fails, and there’s always something new to find in each picture. I’ve read it to all my children - many times - and it’s given both me and them a lot of fun.

Celebrating Allan Ahlberg

Sophy Henn, author of Almost Anything

Cops and Robbers was one of my absolute favourites when I was little and I am delighted to say I still love it now. I think it ignited my love of both crime dramas and cross-section illustrations! As this hilarious caper joyously bounces along, the Robbers are threatening Christmas, which is about as bad as it gets for a four-year-old, and Ahlberg doesn’t shy away from their obvious love of villainy! I think we tend to stay away from the darker side of life with picture books these days, but as Roald Dahl said, your villains can do the most awful things as long as there is justice in the end. And our Robbers certainly get their comeuppance, thanks to heroic PC Pugh, of the Coppers, who puts everything right in time for Christmas and without coming across as pious or goody-goody. Genius! Janet Ahlberg’s detailed cross-sections and images packed with visual gags build on the exhilarating pace and rhythm of the story. And I DO love a tale with an open ending. What happened to Grandma Swagg? We may never know… Ho! Ho!

Megan Rix, author of Emmeline and the Plucky Pup

'As this hilarious caper joyously bounces along, the Robbers are threatening Christmas, which is about as bad as it gets for a four-year-old'

 My favourite book has to be Woof! As soon as I read about Eric’s nose becoming cold and wet and his ears becoming flappy I knew this was the book for me. And, best of all, years later I met my own Eric - he can’t turn into a dog, but he is a massive dog lover (as of course am I).

Celebrating Allan Ahlberg

Shirley Hughes, author of Alfie at Nursery School

Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s picture book partnership burst upon the children’s book world like an exhilarating, life-enhancing breath of fresh air. Allan’s writing style is a combination of fine, highly skilled wordplay and a relaxed, brilliantly accessible storyline, full of his unique sense of humour. He and Janet played off one another with an unforgettable interplay of talent, essentially English yet worldwide in its appeal. It was a duo that, one can only say, was made in heaven.

Abie Longstaff, author of The Fairytale Hairdresser series

Each Peach Pear Plum was first published when I was a little girl. My parents read it to me and, in turn, I read it to each of my five sisters; then later to my own children. Now, every time I read it, I hear my mother’s voice in mine. It takes me back to snuggly mornings in Mum and Dad’s bed, or fights on the sofa with my sisters about which of us got to say “I spy everyone!” We used to love spotting the fairy tale characters in both Each Peach and The Jolly Postman, and the concept of fantasy characters mingling in their fairy-tale world, with their own houses and lives, stayed with me and hugely inspired my own series, The Fairytale Hairdresser.

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