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I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, where I trained to be a graphic designer with a strong focus on critical thinking. My approach to graphic design and communication problem-solving has not changed much. I learned by observing how similar people are, whether they are learning to read, or running large corporations, and I put those observations into my work.

After a decade of designing books for children and young adults, I became a children’s author and illustrator. I love working with children and teachers or parents. They help me improve and keep my work relevant. 

I have always believed that it is worth celebrating how people are more similar than different. I have also seen over the last few decades how much better it is for children of all backgrounds to see or read themselves in books.

In 2017 I started an independent publishing company creating and producing naturally inclusive books for very young children called Alanna Max

Since 2021 I have been developing a new, naturally inclusive, commercial imprint for Harper Collins

I am represented by Clare Wallace of Darley Anderson

Here is a list of my books for children:

Career Highlights

2022

  • Made Patron of CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education)
  • Illustrator of CLiPPA award winner, “Stars With Flaming Tales”

2020 

  • Astrid Lingren Memorial Award (ALMA) 2021 nomination
  • Winner STEAM AWARD for Early Years picturebooks 2020 
  • World Book Day Steering Committee
  • Judge, Wales Book of the Year 2020
  • Bank Street College (USA) – 20 best books of the Year 
  • Launched 17Promises magazine in partnership with UN, Govt of Zimbabwe

2019

  • Nominated- Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards 2019 (UK)
  • Mentor, Pathways into Publishing
  • Included in Breaking New Ground as one of the most influential black authors/illustrators in the UK
  • Honorable Mention, Moveable Books Society Meggendorfer Prize for Best Paper Engineering (US)

2017 

  • Owner and publisher, Alanna Max 

2015 

  • Awarded one of the 50 best books on diversity in the last 50 years by the Guardian Newspaper
  • Centre for Literature in Primary Education core list (Early Years) UK
  • African American Literature Bookclub (AALB) Top 154 Recommended African-American Children’s Books 

2014 

  • Launched Chicken Newspaper for Children. A quarterly printed tabloid-sized publication for primary school children

1994 – present

  • Over 70 books for children worldwide in more than 10 languages

1984– Silver Medal for illustration- Brno Biennale

Download my CV

11 comments

  1. We have just seen Ken at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and bought a copy of his book The Flute. Our little girl loved his performance of his books with the live drumming and Ken was fun, engaging and kind. Thank you for a lovely morning.

    1. We love the Lenny books. They are hard to find in the USA, but worth the effort and price. They are favorites of both my children.

  2. Max’s Letter has been an absolute favourite book of every child through my house. Shame I haven’t been able to purchase any more copies here is Australia. It would make the ideal gift.

  3. I earned my private pilots license when my twin boys were toddlers. Their favorite book of all was , “Little Red Plane”, We enjoyed flying together almost nightly with that wonderful book. Thank You for creating such a interesting creative children`s book. One day soon my grand son and i will go flying again with it. Jay G

  4. I recently purchased a couple copies of Big Blue Engine and Big Red Fire Engine as gifts. My 21-year old son, home from uni, found them and on opening and revisiting the train-in-motion started quiet crying. He’d worn out nearly every moving part of these books as a little guy and the magic is clearly still there. Thank you Ken Wilson-Max for all that book art magic and the ones you’ve created since!

  5. Halala Ken!

    Tom Willans here from the old days. How on earth are you? Hope the dreaded C19 isn’t having too drastic an effect on you and yours.

    After 16 years teaching, I’m sniffing about for publishing work. If I stay in the classroom I’ll be dead by 50 (4 years time)…

  6. Dear Ken
    I was recommended to check out your website as I am compiling a list of children’s book recommendations with diversity in mind for my son’s former school. It was particularly noted how important it is for kids to see themselves reflected in books they read for pleasure and not just ones they study formally in the classroom. Their school budget is tight and there is currently no money to buy books for the reading corner. They do take part in World Book Day and are sometimes gifted books through other charities, but these are often by white authors featuring white characters.
    Which kids’ books would you recommend that promote diversity well?
    Ideally the recommended books would be amazing, fun and exciting, featuring or by BAME characters / authors and not ones that specifically deal with issues of diversity and inclusion. It’s important the characters in the books have fun and “just happen” to be people of colour rather than ones that feature a plot line about race, which can often present a negative feeling about BAME people.
    Please list some of your own as well as others you admire.
    Many thanks in advance!
    Kerry

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