Born near London in 1930, Brian Alderson decided as a child
that he wanted to play professional cricket for England. But this ambition was “thwarted,” he says, first when he fell over and broke his elbow, and
second when the Blitz divided him from his coach, the “tyrannical Miss ‘Swinney’
He finished school in Yorkshire, where he now lives, and went
on to study German and philosophy at Exeter University. Since neither of these
subjects lent itself to any “intelligible career,” Alderson entered into
the book trade. After what he calls “an all-too-close encounter with the
fledgling Robert Maxwell,” Mr. Alderson soon found himself involved with
children's books, and they have been the main focus of his attention for
nearly forty years.
Working initially for a specialist bookseller in outer
London, Alderson later graduated to writing and lecturing about children's
books. He got involved in editing a series of historical texts, in revamping the
“Color Fairy Books” of Andrew Lang, and in lecturing on children's
literature at what is now the University of North London. He ultimately managed
to use his German skills in a number of translations such as Grimm's Popular
Folk Tales but says his “philosophical endeavors have been only dimly
reflected” in his continuing work in children's book bibliography and
children's book reviews at The Times of London.
Alderson came to write about Ezra Jack Keats largely out of a
long-standing association with the University of Southern Mississippi where he
is an adjunct professor. When the University took possession of Keats' working
archive in 1985, he found himself working on a catalog of the collection and a
study of the artist at the request of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation itself.
His background in printing and the art of the picture book,
experience with children and storytelling, as well as his sense of the
universality of the greatest children's books made Brian Alderson a
particularly good candidate for the task at hand.
According to Alderson, his years spent with the Keats' papers have been
“both an education and a joy,” but even so, perhaps not as great a joy as
playing cricket for England would have been.