Leila Berg

Leila Berg (12 November 1917 – 17 April 2012) was an English children's author. She was also known as a journalist and a writer on education and children's rights.[1][2] Berg was a recipient of the Eleanor Farjeon Award.

Leila Berg
Born12 November 1917
Salford, England, UK
Died17 April 2012 (aged 94)
OccupationAuthor, journalist, political activist
Years active1948–99
AwardsEleanor Farjeon Award (1973)


She was brought up in Salford, Lancashire, in a Jewish doctor's family; she wrote vividly about this part of her life in Flickerbook (1997), describing also later meetings in Cambridge through her older brother, particularly with Margot Heinemann, and J. B. S. Haldane whom she would reference obliquely in the early Chunky books. She associated with Young Communist League members at the time of the Spanish Civil War (in which she lost two lovers) and eventually joined the movement. Her first job as a journalist was with the British communist daily paper The Daily Worker.[3]

Berg was influenced in her thinking by psychologist Susan Isaacs.[4] After working as a journalist in World War II, during which she married and started a family, she began to write children's fiction. She also took an interest in the progressive education advocated by A. S. Neill (Summerhill), Michael Duane (Risinghill) and John Holt ("unschooling").[5]

Berg began writing in a more realistic and gritty style, for younger children, in the 1960s, in the Nippers series of readers. This was an influential move designed to bring children's books closer to ordinary, real, urban life, and away from the Janet and John reader style (and probably the cosiness of Enid Blyton's world, a ubiquitous influence in the period). She became children's editor for the publisher Methuen.[6] As she put it: All my life I have sought to empower children (speech at the University of Essex, at an honorary degree ceremony).[7]

She was awarded the Eleanor Farjeon Award in 1974.[8]

Leila Berg died on 17 April 2012.[9]


  • Fourteen What-Do-You-Know Stories (1948)
  • The Adventures of Chunky (1950)
  • The Nightingale and other stories (1951)
  • The Tired Train and Other Listen With Mother and Let's Join in Stories (1952)
  • Trust Chunky (1954)
  • Fire Engine by Mistake (1955)
  • Lollipops: Stories and Poems (1957)
  • Andy's Pit Pony (1958)
  • A Box for Benny (1958)
  • The Hidden Road (1958)
  • Little Pete Stories (1959)
  • Four Feet & Two and Some with None, an Anthology of Verse (1960) editor
  • Three Men Went to Work (1966)
  • Folk Tales for Reading & Telling (1966)
  • My Dog Sunday (1968)
  • Finding a Key (1968) Nippers series
  • Jimmy's Story (1968) Nippers series
  • The Jumble Sale (1968) Nippers series
  • Risinghill: Death of a Comprehensive School (1968)
  • Raising Hell Play, commissioned by Salisbury Playhouse, based on the Risinghill book (1969)[10]
  • Neill Summerhill: A Man and His Work. A Pictorial Study (1969) with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Bouncing (1971) Nippers series
  • Children's Rights: Toward the Liberation of the Child (1971) with Paul Adams, Nan Berger, Michael Duane, A.S. Neill, Robert Ollendorff
  • The Train Back: A Search for Parents (1972) with Pat Chapman
  • Look at Kids (1972)
  • The Little Car (1974)
  • The Little Car Has a Day Out (1974)
  • Tracy's Story (1974) Nippers series
  • Reading and Loving (1976)
  • Presents (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Looking For Elephants (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Birthday Races (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Waiting For The Dark (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • A Tickle (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • The Hot, Hot Day (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Our Walk (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • In A House I Know (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Tales for Telling (1983)
  • Vacuum Cleaners (1985)
  • Blood and Bandages (1986)
  • Time for One More (1992)
  • Flickerbook (1997) autobiography 1917–1939
  • God Stories: A Celebration of Legends (1999)
  • Julie's Story Nippers Series
  • Backwards and Forwards: Children Talking, Older People Remembering and Writing, editor



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