R.I.P. Russell Hoban, Author of Over 50 Magical Children's Books, Plus a Post-Apocalyptic Classic

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Most authors can only dream of having the kind of imagination that Russell Hoban boasted. He had already written dozens of beloved children's books, including seven books about Frances, a young girl who appears as a badger, before he wrote Riddley Walker, an iconic post-apocalyptic novel. In Riddley Walker, it's 2,000 years in the future, and the Earth has long since been devastated by a nuclear catastrophe, leaving the human race enslaved by mysterious beings.

Asked about the "mixing of reality and myth" in his novels in a 1984 interview, Hoban responded:

I do think there is a mythic sense. I didn't start out planning that way, but I noted its development. And I accepted it as my way of going at it, and I'm doing it more and more as I go along. I think that the myth- making capability is an essential one, and it's a resource that is not used enough. Rational thinking is not enough to get us through what we have to get through. If the heads of governments, East and West, could perceive events more in a mythic way, they would be in better shape for working things out.


Hoban died on Tuesday, aged 86, after quadruple bypass surgery. His final book is Soonchild, about a shaman making a dangerous journey across the Arctic, and it's coming out in March in the U.K. [School Library Journal and New York Times]

Top image: Detail from Russell Hoban's map of post-apocalyptic Britain, via Riddley Walker Annotations.