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Raymond Briggs, creator of children’s book ‘The Snowman,’ dies at 88

His wordless picture book, which tells the story of a boy who makes a snowman that comes to life, sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide

Author Raymond Briggs in London’s Hyde Park on May 28, 2008. (Anthony Devlin/PA Images/Getty Images)
correction

A previous version of this article misidentified the singer of "Walking in the Air" in the film "The Snowman." He was Peter Auty, not Aled Jones. For many years, Auty was not credited in "The Snowman," and Jones recorded another version that topped the charts. The article has been corrected.

LONDON — Raymond Briggs, the British author and illustrator best known for creating the immensely popular wordless picture book “The Snowman,” died Aug. 9. He was 88.

His death was announced by his family and by his publisher, Penguin Random House. Mr. Briggs had been hospitalized in Brighton, England, but other details were not immediately available.

Mr. Briggs showed a keen interest in illustrating from a young age and soared to fame after creating “The Snowman,” which was first published in 1978. The book, which uses pictures alone to tell the story of a boy who makes a snowman that comes to life, went on to sell more than 5.5 million copies worldwide.

“The Snowman” was later turned into an Oscar-nominated, BAFTA award-winning film, featuring the song “Walking in the Air,” sung by Peter Auty, which became the soundtrack to the cartoon — and to Christmas in Britain, where versions of the song have been broadcast every year since 1982.

“I still watch The Snowman every year and it still hits me right in the heart every time,” read one of many tweets hailing Mr. Briggs and his legacy.

Mr. Briggs’s publisher praised him for inspiring “generations of creators of picture books, graphic novels, and animations.” Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s Books, said the death of Mr. Briggs leaves a “big hole” in the industry.

In a tweet, illustrator Rob Biddulph described Mr. Briggs as “a titan in our industry and a true one-off.”

“The Snowman was a work of undeniable genius,” he wrote, “a game-changer, not just in the world of children’s books, but books full stop.”

In 1983, “The Snowman” was nominated for an Academy Award for best short film. It went on to win a BAFTA. One year later, David Bowie recorded a special introduction to the animation.

Raymond Redvers Briggs was born in Wimbledon, London, on Jan. 18, 1934. He studied at the Wimbledon School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art, both in London, before working in advertising and then beginning his career as a book illustrator.

In 2017, Mr. Briggs won a lifetime achievement award from BookTrust, a British reading charity, for his outstanding contribution to children’s literature.

His most noted books, in addition to “The Snowman,” included “Father Christmas,” “Fungus the Bogeyman” and “Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age.”

Hilary Delamere, Mr. Briggs’s literary agent, said in a statement that he would be remembered for his tales of “love and loss.” His final book “Time for Lights Out,” was a collection of thoughts, poems, sketches and observations.

“I know from the many letters he received how his books and animations touched people’s hearts,” Delamere said, while his family added: “Drawings from fans — especially children’s drawings — inspired by his books were treasured by Raymond, and pinned up on the wall of his studio.”

His wife, Jean Taprell Clark, died in 1973. His partner of 40 years, Liz Benjamin, died in 2015. Survivors include two stepchildren, Clare and Tom, and three grandchildren.

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