Goldsmiths, University of London is honouring one of its alumna, Topsy and Tim creator Jean Adamson, with a university fellowship tomorrow (17th February).
Peckham-born Adamson, 88, is the creator of more than 100 children’s books spanning five decades. She was also awarded an MBE for her services to children’s literature in 1999.
She attended Goldsmiths to study illustration at the age of 16, and after graduating continued to teach illustration and design at the university. She met her husband Gareth Adamson while studying at the university, with whom she went on to produce the Topsy and Tim books, published by Ladybird, as an author team - he produced the storylines and she the illustration.
Over 130 Topsy & Tim titles have been published, selling upwards of 21m copies worldwide, according to Goldsmiths. The first book was Monday, which led on to the Days of the Week series of hardbacks.
In total to date in the UK, the Topsy and Tim series has sold 1,311,215 copies for £3.23m, across 51 titles (Nielsen Bookscan).
Topsy and Tim also inspired an animated TV series, comprising 60 episodes. So far, three seasons of "a live-action version" have broadcast on CBeebies.
Adamson was nominated for a fellowship by Professor Carrie Paechter, head of the department of educational studies. She said: “Topsy and Tim was a ground-breaking series for many reasons. It showed children leading ordinary, simple lives, while showing an interest in the world around them. Jean’s illustrations are clear and simple but highly engaging, and the storylines always amuse.
“For the female character, Topsy, to get into as much trouble as her brother was highly unusual at the time. This was extremely important for childhood education in the ‘60s and more than 50 years later, they’re still some of the most equality-conscious children’s stories around.
“I would imagine a lot of staff, as well as students, and parents at our graduation ceremonies remember the books from their childhood - they span the generations. I know how thrilled I was myself to arrive at nursery to see a whole cupboard of Topsy and Tim books!”.