For other people named Michael Rosen, see Michael Rosen (disambiguation).

Michael Wayne Rosen (born 7 May 1946)[1] is an English children's novelist and poet, the author of 140 books. He served as Children's Laureate from June 2007 to June 2009.[2] He has been a TV presenter and a political columnist.

Early life

Rosen was born into a Jewish family in Harrow, Middlesex,[3] the son of communist parents. His father Harold (1919–2008) was born in Brockton, Massachusetts. His mother was Connie (née Isakofsky) Rosen (1920-1976). Harold Rosen settled in the East End of London at the age of two, when his mother returned to the country of her birth.[4] While a member of the Young Communist League, Harold met Connie Isakofsky, his future wife and Rosen's mother, in 1935. Harold was a secondary school teacher before becoming a professor of English at the Institute of Education in London,[5] and Connie was a primary school teacher before becoming a training college lecturer; she also broadcast for the BBC. Producing a programme featuring poetry, she persuaded her son to write for it, and used some of the material he submitted.[6] Their ancestors came from Poland, Russia, and Romania.[3] Rosen was raised in Pinner, Middlesex, and went to various state schools in Pinner and Harrow, and Watford Grammar School for Boys;[3] having discovered the range of Jonathan Miller, he thought "wouldn't it be wonderful to know all about science, and know all about art, and be funny and urbane and all that".[7] Subsequently, in his own words:

I went to Middlesex Hospital Medical School, started on the first part of a medical training, jacked it in and went on to do a degree in English at Oxford University. I then worked for the BBC until they chucked me out and I have been a freelance writer, broadcaster, lecturer, performer ever since – that's to say since 1972. Most of my books have been for children, but that's not how I started out. Sometime around the age of twelve and thirteen I began to get a sense that I liked writing, liked trying out different kinds of writing, I tried writing satirical poems about people I knew.[3]


Early career

After his studies at Wadham College, Oxford, and graduation in 1969, Rosen became a graduate trainee at the BBC. Among the work that he did while there in the 1970s was presenting a series on BBC Schools television called WALRUS (Write And Learn, Read, Understand, Speak). He was also scriptwriter on the children's reading series Sam on Boffs' Island. But Rosen found working for the corporation frustrating: "Their view of 'educational' was narrow. The machine had decided this was the direction to take. Your own creativity was down the spout."[8]

Despite previously having made no secret of his radical left-wing politics when he was originally interviewed for a BBC post, he was asked to go freelance in 1972, though in practice he was sacked despite several departments of the BBC wishing to employ him. In common with the China expert and journalist Isabel Hilton among several others at this time, Rosen had failed the vetting procedures which were then in operation. This long-standing practice was only revealed in 1985, and by the time Rosen requested to access his files, they had been destroyed.[9]

In 1974 Mind Your Own Business, his first book of poetry for children, was published. In due course, Rosen established himself with his collections of humorous verse for children, including Wouldn't You Like to Know, You Tell Me and Quick Let's Get Out of Here.

Educationalist Morag Styles has described Rosen as "one of the most significant figures in contemporary children's poetry". He was, says Styles, one of the first poets "to draw closely on his own childhood experiences [...] and to 'tell it as it was' in the ordinary language children actually use".[8]

Rosen played a key role in opening up children's access to poetry: both through his own writing and with important anthologies such as Culture Shock. He was one of the first poets to make visits to schools throughout the UK and further afield in Australia, Canada and Singapore.[8] His tours continue to enthuse and engage school children about poetry in the present.[10]

Rosen and Helen Oxenbury collaborated on the book We're going on a Bear Hunt which won a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize in 1989.[11]The publisher, Walker Books, celebrated the works 25th anniversary in 2014 by breaking a Guinness World Record for Largest Reading Lesson.[12][13]

Since 1990

In 1993, Rosen gained an M.A. in Children's Literature from the University of Reading; he holds a Ph.D. from the University of North London.[14]

Rosen is well established as a broadcaster, presenting a range of documentary features on British radio. He is the presenter of BBC Radio 4's regular magazine programme Word of Mouth which looks at the English language and the way it is used.[15]

The English Association gave Michael Rosen's Sad Book (2004) an Exceptional Award for the Best Children's Illustrated Books of its year in the 4–11 age range. The book was written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It deals in part with bereavement, and followed the publication of Carrying the Elephant: A Memoir of Love and Loss which was published in November 2002 after the death of his son Eddie (aged 18), who features as a child in much of his earlier poetry.[16] Rosen's This Is Not My Nose: A Memoir of Illness and Recovery (2004), is an account of his ten years with undiagnosed hypothyroidism; a course of drugs in 1981 alleviated the condition.[8]

Rosen has been involved in campaigning around issues of education and for the Palestinian cause. In August 2010 Rosen contributed to an eBook collection of political poems entitled Emergency Verse - Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State edited by Alan Morrison.[17] He has written columns for the Socialist Worker newspaper[18] and spoken at conferences organised by the Socialist Workers Party.[19] He stood for election in June 2004 in London as a Respect Coalition candidate.[6] He is a supporter of the Republic campaign.[20]

In 2011 he collaborated with his wife, Emma-Louise Williams, to produce the film Under the Cranes,[21] with Rosen providing the original screenplay (a 'play for voices' called 'Hackney Streets') which Williams took as a basis with which to direct the film. It premiered at the Rio Cinema, Dalston, London on 30 April 2011 as part of the East End Film Festival.[22]

He was formerly a Visiting Professor of Children's Literature at Birkbeck, University of London,[23] where he taught Children's Literature and has devised an MA in Children's Literature, which commenced in October 2010. Since September 2014 he has been at Goldsmiths, University of London as Professor of Children's Literature in the Department of Educational Studies teaching an MA in children's literature.[24]

He is also a patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres.[25]

Rosen was a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn during his campaign for the Labour Party leadership election in 2015,[26] Rosen contributed to Poets for Corbyn, a book of poems "featuring 20 writers" with other contributions from "Pascale Petit, Nicholas Murray and Ian Pindar", which "opens with Tom Pickard's caustic assessment of austerity Britain".[27] He was a signatory to a letter criticising The Jewish Chronicle's reporting of Corbyn's association with alleged antisemites.[28]

Rosen was the subject of the BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs programme on 6 August 2006.[29]

Awards and honours

Rosen was appointed the sixth British Children's Laureate in June 2007, succeeding Jacqueline Wilson, and held the honour until 9 June 2009, succeeded by Anthony Browne.[2][30][31] Rosen signed off from the Laureateship with an article in The Guardian,[32] in which he said, poignantly: "Sometimes when I sit with children when they have the space to talk and write about things, I have the feeling that I am privileged to be the kind of person who is asked to be part of it". Also, in the summer of 2007, he was awarded an Honorary D.Litt at the University of Exeter.[33]

On 19 January 2008 Rosen was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust and the University of East London at a ceremony held at the Institute of Education.[34] On 5 November 2008 he was presented with an Honorary master's degree at the University of Worcester,[35] then on 18 November 2008 he was presented with the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Literature) by the Government of France at the French Ambassador's residence in London.[36][37]

On 2 April 2010 Rosen was given the Fred and Anne Jarvis Award from the National Union of Teachers for "campaigning for education".[38] On 22 July 2010 he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Education (DEd) by Nottingham Trent University.[39]

On 5 April 2011 Rosen was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at the Institute of Education, University of London,[40] and on 20 July 2011 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of the West of England.[41]

Rosen was selected to be the guest director of the Brighton Festival in May 2013.

Personal life

Rosen has been married three times, and is the father of five children and has two stepchildren.[42] Eddie, his second son, died at age 18 of meningitis in 1999. His death was the inspiration for Michael Rosen's Sad Book (2004).[16] Rosen lives in North London[43] with his third wife, Emma-Louise Williams, and their two children.[44][45]


  1. ^ "About Me", Michael Rosen's official website
  2. ^ a b "Michael Rosen". Children's Laureate ( Booktrust. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  3. ^ a b c d Michael Rosen interview, WriteWords Writers' Community, February 2004, retrieved 2015-01-17 
  4. ^ Harold Rosen (5 August 2008), "Harold Rosen: A Rebel from the East End [interview]", Socialist Worker (Socialist Worker), retrieved 2008-08-21 
  5. ^ John Richmond (4 August 2008), "Harold Rosen [obituary]", The Guardian (London: Guardian Unlimited) 
  6. ^ a b Leslie Steigel; Joyce Bainbridge (Fall 2004), "From Poetry to Politics: The Gifts and Talents of Michael Rosen", Language and Literacy (reproduced on the University of Alberta website) 6 (2), retrieved 2008-08-21 
  7. ^ Emily Bearn (16 November 2008), "A novel approach to the classroom", The Sunday Times 
  8. ^ a b c d Morag Styles (July 1988), "Authorgraph No 51 – Michael Rosen", Books for Keeps: the Children's Book Magazine (51), retrieved 2008-08-21 [dead link].
  9. ^ Mark Hollingsworth; Richard Norton-Taylor (1988), "MI5 and the BBC – Stamping the 'Christmas Tree' files [chap. 5]", Blacklist: The Inside Story of Political Vetting, London: Hogarth Press, p. 104, ISBN 0-7012-0811-2 ; David Leigh and Paul Lashmar "The Blacklist in Room 105", The Observer, 18 August 1985, p.9
  10. ^ See, for example, Michael Rosen tour highlights, Scottish Book Trust, retrieved 2008-11-26 
  11. ^ Richard Sprenger (10 April 2014). "We're Going on a Bear Hunt: 'The editors were so excited they were nearly weeping' – video". the Guardian. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "New world record for Bear Hunt!". Wear dots...raise lots. 
  14. ^ Nicholas Tucker (20 July 2007), "Interview: Why Michael Rosen will relish being the Children's Laureate", The Independent (London) 
  15. ^ Word of Mouth, BBC Radio 4, retrieved 2008-11-26 
  16. ^ a b Rabinovitch, Dina (24 November 2004). "Author of the month: Michael Rosen". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  17. ^ "Welcome". The Recusant. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  18. ^ Rosen, Michael (27 October 2009). "Michael Rosen: 'Question Time has opened the door for the BNP'". Socialist Worker. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  19. ^ "Ideas to change the world... Marxism 2010". Socialist Workers Party. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  20. ^ "Our Supporters". Republic. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  21. ^ Under the Cranes (2012-11-23). "Under the Cranes". Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  22. ^ "East London on film, East End Film Festival". BFI. May 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  23. ^ "Michael Rosen". Department of English and Humanities, School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  24. ^ "Award-winning children's author joins Goldsmiths". Goldsmiths. 4 November 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  25. ^ "Michael Rosen | Shakespeare Schools Festival". Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  26. ^ Rosen, Michael (26 June 2015). "For Jeremy Corbyn". Michael Rosen's Blog. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  27. ^ Bennets, Russell. "Yes we scan: Poets line up for Jeremy Corbyn", The Guardian, 28 August 2015. Accessed 22 January 2016.
  28. ^ Dysch, Marcus (18 August 2015). "Anti-Israel activists attack JC for challenging Jeremy Corbyn". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  29. ^ Desert Island Discs: Michael Rosen, BBC Radio 4, 6 August 2006, retrieved 2007-12-14 
  30. ^ "Rosen is chosen for laureate role", BBC News (BBC News Online), 11 June 2007 
  31. ^ Alison Flood (9 June 2009). "Gorilla artist Anthony Browne becomes children's laureate | Books |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  32. ^ "The ups and downs of a story: As he bows out as children's laureate today, Michael Rosen looks back on the warmth and enthusiasm of his young audiences ... and the blank looks of politicians", The Guardian (London), 9 June 2007 
  33. ^ University News (PDF),, retrieved 2012-11-27 
  34. ^ "Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen receives Honorary Doctorate of Letters". 22 January 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  35. ^ Worcester News,, retrieved 2012-11-27 
  36. ^ Michael Rosen, Latest news: November 18, retrieved 2008-11-26 
  37. ^ "Michael Rosen's website". WebCite. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  38. ^ "Michael Rosen is awarded the Fred & Anne Jarvis Award at NUT conference". NUT Annual Conference 2010 – Press Release. National Union of Teachers. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  39. ^ "Michael Rosen - NTU Honorary Graduate - 22nd July 2010". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  40. ^ "Alumni Life - Institute of Education, University of London". 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  41. ^ "UWE Bristol: News". Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  42. ^ Cassandra Jardine (21 June 2007), "'As teenagers, my boys read football programmes...'", The Daily Telegraph ; and biographical information provided by Michael Rosen on 19 December 2007.
  43. ^ Durrant, Sabine (6 September 2014). "Michael Rosen: Why curiosity is the key to life". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  44. ^ Kellaway, Kate (27 October 2002). "The children's poet who grew up". (Michael Rosen talks about lone parenting, his new baby daughter - and the day his son died) (London: The Observer). Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  45. ^ "From here to paternity: Tales from the labour ward". London: The Independent. 21 June 2006. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
Other sources

Further reading


Book reviews

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