Leila Berg bigraphy, stories - British writer

Leila Berg : biography

1917 - 17 April 2012

Leila Berg (12 November 1917 – 17 April 2012) was a British children's author, known also as a journalist and writer on education and children's rights. She began writing in a more realistic and gritty style, for younger children, in the 1960s, in the Nippers series of readers in an influential move designed to bring children's books closer to ordinary, real, urban life, and away from the Janet and John reader style. (And, probably, the comforts of Enid Blyton's world, a ubiquitous influence of the period.) She was awarded the Eleanor Farjeon Award in 1973 for her work.

She was brought up in Salford, Lancashire, in a Jewish doctor's family; she wrote vividly about this part of her life in Flickerbook (1997). There she describes also later meetings in Cambridge through her older brother, particularly with Margot Heinemann, and J. B. S. Haldane whom she would reference obliquely in the early Chunky books. She associated with Young Communist League members at the time of the Spanish Civil War (in which she lost two lovers) and eventually joined it. Her first job as a journalist was with the British communist daily paper The Daily Worker (later renamed The Morning Star).

She was influenced in her thinking by psychologist Susan Isaacs. After working as a journalist in World War II, during which she married and started a family, she started to write children's fiction. She also took an interest in the progressive education movement of A. S. Neill, Michael Duane, head of Risinghill School, and John Holt. She became children's editor for the publisher Methuen. As she said, All my life I have sought to empower children (speech at honorary degree ceremony, University of Essex).

Leila Berg died on 17 April 2012.


  • Fourteen What-Do-You-Know Stories (1948)
  • The Adventures of Chunky (1950)
  • The Nightingale and other stories (1951)
  • The Tired Train and Other Listen With Mother and Let's Join In Stories (1952)
  • Trust Chunky (1954)
  • Fire Engine by Mistake (1955)
  • Lollipops: Stories and Poems (1957)
  • Andy's Pit Pony (1958)
  • A Box for Benny (1958)
  • The Hidden Road (1958)
  • Little Pete Stories (1959)
  • Four Feet & Two and Some with None, an Anthology of Verse (1960) editor
  • Three Men Went to Work (1966)
  • Folk Tales for Reading & Telling (1966)
  • My Dog Sunday (1968)
  • Finding a Key (1968) Nippers series
  • Jimmy's Story (1968) Nippers series
  • The Jumble Sale (1968) Nippers series
  • Risinghill: Death of a Comprehensive School (1968)
  • Raising Hell Play, commissioned by Salisbury Playhouse, based on the Risinghill book (1969)
  • Neill Summerhill: A Man and His Work. A Pictorial Study (1969) with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Bouncing (1971) Nippers series
  • Children's Rights: Toward the Liberation of the Child (1971) with Paul Adams, Nan Berger, Michael Duane, A.S. Neill, Robert Ollendorff
  • The Train Back: A Search for Parents (1972) with Pat Chapman
  • Look at Kids (1972)
  • The Little Car (1974)
  • The Little Car Has a Day Out (1974)
  • Tracy's Story (1974) Nippers series
  • Reading and Loving (1976)
  • Presents (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Looking For Elephants (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Birthday Races (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Waiting For The Dark (1977) Snaps series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • A Tickle (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • The Hot, Hot Day (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Our Walk (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • In A House I Know (1981) Methuen Chatterbooks series, with John Walmsley (Photographer)
  • Tales for Telling (1983)
  • Vacuum Cleaners (1985)
  • Blood and Bandages (1986)
  • Time for One More (1992)
  • Flickerbook (1997) autobiography 1917-1939
  • God Stories: A Celebration of Legends (1999)
  • Julie's Story Nippers Series
  • Backwards and Forwards: Children Talking, Older People Remembering and Writing, editor
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