Winning Year: 1969
Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury
Title: The Dragon of an Ordinary Family

Original Publisher: Heinemann
Current Publisher: Oxford University Press
In Print

The Belsaki family appear at first to be an ordinary family, but they acquire the most extraordinary pet. Mr Belsaki is determined not to be a "fuddy-duddy" so he buys a "dragon, house trained" from the local pet shop. The pet dragon grows and grows until it fills their whole yard and starts to breathe out smoke and fire.


Helen Oxenbury was born in 1938 just before the Second World War in Ipswich, Suffolk. Her earliest memory was, "hearing the drone of doodlebugs, the whine of sirens, and being snatched from my bed and rushed down the garden shelter where we had delicious cups of tea and over jolly games until the 'all clear'. Not understanding the danger, I thoroughly enjoyed these lively interludes, and nights spent quietly in bed were a great disappointment. In the daytime my brother and I searched for shrapnel and jumped onto old bomb craters on the heath behind our garden."

Sets and scenery, not books, were Helen's preoccupation for her early adult life as she embarked on careers in theatre, film, and television. She married John Burningham, another of the world's most eminent children's book illustrators and later lived with him in Israel. When they returned to England she worked in television and films.

After giving birth to their first child, she turned to illustrating children's books. "When I had babies," Helen says, "I wanted to be home with them and look for something to do there." Helen and her husband made their home in London, where she now works in a nearby studio. She is also an avid tennis player.