Helen Oxenbury helps to finish John Burningham's final book
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
The final storybook by the late, great children's author John Burningham has been completed by his wife Helen Oxenbury in tribute to their "difficult" dog.
The pair of children's illustrators lived and worked in Hampstead together with their beloved rescue dog Miles - the subject of Burningham's 2016 book Motor Miles.
Before his death in January 2019, Burningham had planned a second book about the Jack Russell, who sadly died on the road outside their home in late 2018 .
Now the We're Going On A Bear Hunt illustrator has completed Air Miles, with family friend Bill Salaman supplying the poignant story of Mile's final journey that sees him take to the skies. Published on June 17, it explores saying good bye, loss and grief as Miles is getting older and can no longer do the things he used to.
"John wrote two stories about Miles our much-loved but very difficult Jack Russell," says Oxenbury.
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"The first was titled Motor Miles and while thinking about his second Miles story, John became very ill and realised he may not be able to finish this book. He asked me if I would finish Air Miles for him, at this point Miles had died so I thought my contribution could be my homage to the two much-loved men in my life.
"Bill Salaman wrote a beautiful and moving version of John's story as far as he remembered from what John had told him."
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Three of Burningham's final illustrations are included in the book and his thumbnail sketches are used for the endpapers.
Over six decades, Burningham created many well loved children's stories including Borka, Mr Gumpy's Outing, Avocado Baby, and Granpa. Miles came to Hampstead because his owners couldn't cope with him, but instead of walks on the Heath and playing with other dogs, he preferred to be driven up to to the village to Cafe Rouge or The Wells.
From that sprang Motor Miles, a story about a dog who liked to drive but didn't like rain, walks or dog food.
Burningham told the Ham&High at the time that after lavishing Miles with affection he had improved.
“Unconditional love helps everyone really,” he said.
Air Miles is published by Penguin on June 17.