Brian Wildsmith was one of the first artists in the 1960s to establish new conventions for the picture book. Born and brought up in Yorkshire, he studied at Barnsley School of Art, followed by the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and became a freelance artist in 1957. His books were taken up by Oxford University Press, where he was encouraged by the leading editor Mabel George. His revolutionary use of vivid colour was first showcased in Brian Wildsmith's ABC published in 1962, for which he won the Kate Greenaway Medal. He received this commendation again for Birds in 1967 and for The Owl and the Woodpecker in 1971.