Children’s poet Tony Mitton died in June at the age of 71 after living with a blood condition for 15 years. Born to an army family in Tripoli, North Africa, Mitton grew up in North Africa, Germany and Hong Kong, and attended boarding school in Suffolk before studying English Literature at Cambridge University. Like many of the best children’s poets he started his working life as a primary school teacher.
His first collection of poems, Plum, was published to great acclaim in 1998, praised for its fun and thoughtfulness and wonderful rhythms and rhymes. Many others followed, including a series of rap rhymes, humorous versions of well-known traditional stories, picture books for the very young and book-length poems, including The Red And White Spotted Handkerchief, winner of the Smarties Silver Medal. Many of his poems have the feel of folk tales and this reached a zenith with the young adult picture book Wayland in 2013, a magical retelling of the northern legend of Wayland the blacksmith and winner of the CLiPPA (the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Poetry Award). Tony Mitton donated a privately published collection of poems for adults Breath Words to the National Poetry Library in 2018.
Fellow children’s poets have spoken of his generosity and encouragement towards them at the beginnings of their careers and he will be greatly missed by the schools, festivals and organisations he worked with.
We currently have a display of Tony Mitton’s books in our children’s space and you can search our catalogue here.