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Ahlberg at 70

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BBC Radio 4, 16 August 2009
 
Alan Ahlberg, a native of the Black Country, grew up as an adopted child with a sadistic mother in a household devoid of books. However he managed to educated himself to such an extent that he ended up joining three local libraries simultaneously. He ran away from home at eighteen, but after a brief period of separation he eventually forged a better relationship with his mother. Having completed his higher education, he became a schoolteacher before devoting his life to full-time writing, providing the words for his wife Janet's illustrations.
 
Such was the background of the best-selling author who, because he has written for very young children, has never acquired the worldwide reputation of someone like J.K.Rowling. Nevertheless his books continue to be read and translated; with their combination of vivid imagery and skilfully placed repetitions, they prove ideal for anyone setting out on the reading path for the first time.
 
In this profile, presented by former Blue Peter stalwart Janet Ellis, Ahlberg came across as a dedicated person who had overcome a modest upbringing to achieve personal and material success. Devoted to his wide, he was devastated when she died of cancer, to such an extent that he had turned to drink to provide temporary solace. Eventually he overcame his grief by completing a book about her, which he had privately printed and distributed to his close acquaintances. Ahlberg also found love once again, as he forged a close relationship with his editor Vanessa. It seemed once again that sheer determination had helped him overcome personal adversity. The director of this documentary was Geoff Bird.