Anne Marley writes…
Hazel Townson – contrary to her Wikipedia entry – was born, not in 1950, but 1928. She would have found that highly amusing! She was an amazing woman – enthusiastic, highly intelligent, passionate about children’s reading and writing and equally passionate about libraries and their accessibility for everyone. She asked Klaus Flugge, her publisher, to put a note on the verso of the title pages in her books: ‘Your library is precious – use it or lose it.’
Hazel was a contributor to Punch, where she received a lot of support from Peter Dickinson who was an assistant editor at that time, followed by a career in libraries that culminated in becoming Chief Assistant Librarian for Bury in Lancashire. Throughout this time, she brought up her two children, telling them stories which she committed then to paper, finally arriving at a fledgling Andersen Press, where she stayed and where her books were illustrated by the likes of David McKee, Tony Ross and Philip Dupasquier.
She was a seasoned visiting author in schools, tirelessly travelling up and down the country (on public transport), usually four days a week, talking to children about writing, enthusing them about reading and encouraging them to feel that this was something that they could actually do themselves.
Hazel was the Chair of the Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year Award for many years, until she felt that it was time to hand over the reins to her friend, Adèle Geras. Alzheimer’s Disease was the cruellest illness for someone of Hazel’s intellect, sparkling wit and tireless enthusiasm, but she was wonderfully cared for by her family and died peacefully on 11 October.
She will be sadly missed but very fondly remembered by many people in the children’s book world.