Philip Ardagh

Philip Ardagh
Born (1961-09-11) 11 September 1961 (age 58)
Shortlands, Kent, England
Occupation Writer, radio personality
Nationality British
Genre Children's literature
Notable works Eddie Dickens series

Philip Ardagh Roxbee Cox (born 11 September 1961, Shortlands, Kent) is an English children's author, primarily known for the Eddie Dickens series of books. He has written more than 100 books including adult fiction and children's non-fiction.

During 2004 and 2005 Ardagh collaborated with Sir Paul McCartney and illustrator-animator Geoff Dunbar to create McCartney's first children's book, High in the Clouds. Published simultaneously in the UK and US and other countries in October 2005, there was an initial print run of half-a-million copies in the United States.[citation needed] The Observer called it "a tale about the perils of unchecked global capitalism".[1]

Early life and career

Philip Ardagh was born in 1961, in Kent, England, where he grew up with one brother.[2] He was christened at St Paul's Cathedral in London by the Canon Residentiary, Chancellor and Chapter Treasurer, Frederick Hood, who co-wrote, with poet laureate John Betjeman, the introduction to the book Folly Farm by philosopher Cyril Joad.[citation needed]

Ardagh was educated privately at five different schools. He did not apply to go to university but got a place at Watford College of Art in the advertisement copywriting course, then the only one in Britain.

After a placement at the London advertising agency, Darcy McManus & Masius, he found full-time employment at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency, located beneath what is now known as BT Tower. There he met children's writer Anthony Horowitz, who joined the agency just as Ardagh was leaving.[clarification needed] He later became a library assistant for the London Borough of Lewisham Leisure Services (Downham Library).

Philip described his appearance as a child as "an above-average-height kid", and now measures 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) tall.


Eddie Dickens

After years of working seven days a week writing non-fiction titles and retelling myths and legends (often for 'fixed-fee' non-royalty payments), Philip Ardagh became an overnight success with Awful End (published in 2000), originally written as letters sent to his nephew Ben.

Ardagh has achieved both critical and popular acclaim for his work. Set in Victorian England, his Eddie Dickens books have been described as "A cross between Dickens and Monty Python" (The Guardian) and he himself as "a national treasure" (The Independent).[citation needed]

Popular in Germany, he has won both the Luchs (Lynx) Prize and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (German youth literature prize) for Awful End.[3] Some American critics have accused Ardagh of "jumping on the Lemony Snicket bandwagon", but he created Eddie Dickens in letters to Ben long before the first Snicket book was published. Ardagh once described the Snicket books as being more an homage to Edgar Allan Poe, while his own Eddie Dickens books were an homage to Charles Dickens. (Yet his title The Rise of the House of McNally is derived from Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher.)[citation needed]

The movie rights to the Eddie Dickens books were optioned by Circle of Confusion's Jason Lust for Warner Bros., with director Francis Lawrence slated in to direct.[citation needed] The option was renewed and Lawrence was replaced by young Canadian director Brad Peyton. Lust has since become a key player in Henson's movie division, but remained a producer on the Eddie Dickens project until Warner's second option ran out at the end of 2006. The option was taken up by a European production company in 2015.[citation needed]

As well as writing novels, Ardagh also writes for BBC radio. His children’s dramas have included BBC radio’s first truly interactive radio drama, the nightly 'Arthur Storey and the Department of Historical Correction' (in which he also appeared as the announcer), and (for BBC Radio 4’s GO4IT!) the six-week radio serial 'Secret Undercover Vets On Ice' he played himself and also 'pigeon on a ledge'. His adult work has included stories for BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 7.[citation needed]

Ardagh has appeared as an uncredited extra (background artist) in If Money Be the Food Of Love, Play On, an episode of the cult British TV series Minder, first broadcast in 1984.[citation needed]

Philip Ardagh is of Irish extraction.[citation needed] He is married and has one son.

Unlikely Exploits

Ardagh embarked on Unlikely Exploits, a three-book series about the fall and rise of the downtrodden McNally family. In the first paragraph of the first chapter of the first book, The Fall of Fergal, young Fergal McNally falls to his death from a hotel window. It was serialized BBC Radio 4.

The second book, Heir of Mystery, saw the introduction of Mr Maggs, a man with a head the shape of a pumpkin and with a shark's-tooth smile. Mr Maggs's Manifesto of Change is an example of Ardagh’s quirky trademark style, with such suggested changes as moving the letter Q further down the alphabet, nearer to X, Y and Z, "where it rightfully belongs" and banning the word "cruet" as the collective term for salt and pepper.

The third and final Unlikely Exploit is The Rise of the House of McNally. The McNallys' powers are finally revealed and the three books are tied together.

Unlikely Exploits was illustrated by David Roberts, who also illustrated the Eddie Dickens series.

Grubtown Tales

In 2009, Ardagh published the first of his GRUBTOWN TALES series, 'Stinking Rich & Just Plain Stinky', which won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize for being the funniest book that year. The series went on to contain seven full-length tales and a short story (The Great Pasta Disaster) as a £1 promotional book for World Book Day in 2010. The series was illustrated by Jim Paillot.

The Grunts

In 2011, Ardagh signed a four-book deal with new independent children's publisher Nosy Crow, resulting in THE GRUNTS series, illustrated by Gruffalo illustrator, Axel Scheffler. The second book, THE GRUNTS ALL AT SEA, was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2013. This was the first time that a previous winner was shortlisted again. The final GRUNTS book is due for publication in 2015.


Ardagh has written two humorous books for adults: The Not-So-Very-Nice Goings-On At Victoria Lodge: Without Illustrations By The Author and The Silly Side of Sherlock Holmes: A Brand New Adventure Using A Bunch of Old Pictures.[citation needed]

The first uses pictures taken from the 19th-century Girls' Own Paper and the second uses illustrations of the original Sherlock Holmes stories taken from The Strand Magazine. A third, The Scandalous Life of the Lawless Sisters: Criminally Illustrated With What Was To Hand uses pictures from Punch from the year 1880. He is also a regular reviewer of children's books for The Guardian and has been a judge for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.[citation needed]


Children's fiction
  • Awful End (US: A House Called Awful End) [The Eddie Dickens Trilogy] (2000)
  • Dreadful Acts [The Eddie Dickens Trilogy] (2001)
  • Terrible Times [The Eddie Dickens Trilogy] (2002)
  • Dubious Deeds [The Further Adventures of Eddie Dickens]
  • Horrendous Habits [The Further Adventures of Eddie Dickens]
  • Final Curtain [The Further Adventures of Eddie Dickens]
  • The Fall of Fergal [Unlikely Exploits]
  • Heir of Mystery [Unlikely Exploits]
  • The Rise of the House of McNally [Unlikely Exploits]
  • Stinking Rich and Just Plain Stinky [Grubtown Tales]
  • The Far From Great Escape [Grubtown Tales]
  • The Year That It Rained Cows [Grubtown Tales]
  • Trick Eggs and Rubber Chickens [Grubtown Tales]
  • The Great Pasta Disaster ["Grubtown Tales"]
  • High In the Clouds: (with Sir Paul McCartney & Geoff Dunbar)
Adult fiction
  • The Not-So-Very-Nice Goings-On At Victoria Lodge, Without Illustrations by the Author
  • The Silly Side of Sherlock Holmes, A Brand New Adventure Using A Bunch of Old Pictures
  • The Hieroglyphs Handbook, Teach Yourself Ancient Egyptian
  • The Archaeologist's Handbook, An Insider's Guide to Digging Up The Past
  • WOW! Ideas that Changed the World
  • WOW! Events that Changed the World
  • WOW! Inventions that Changed the World
  • WOW! Discoveries that Changed the World
  • The Truth About Christmas
  • The Truth About Love
  • The Truth About Fairies
  • Why Are Castles Castle-Shaped?
  • Did Dinosaurs Snore?
  • The History Detectives series (with Colin King)
  • The Get A Life series
  • Philip Ardagh's Book Of Absolutely Useless Lists For Absolutely Every Day of The Year


  • Luchs (Lynx) Prize (Awarded by Die Zeit newspaper in Germany)
  • Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (German youth literature prize) [3]
  • Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2009 (category seven-to-14 years)[4]

See also


  1. ^ Merritt, Stephanie (17 December 2005). "It took him years to write ...: Stephanie Merritt takes a look at Paul McCartney's anti-capitalist children's book, High in the Clouds". The Observer. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  2. ^ "Philip Ardagh (1961-) Biography", Brief Biographies
  3. ^ a b "Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis 2003". Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  4. ^ Adams, Stephen (10 November 2009). "Veteran author wins Roald Dahl Funny Prize". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 November 2009.

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