Petronella Breinburg

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Petronella Breinburg
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Died2019(2019-00-00) (aged 91–92)
Alma mater
  • University of Keele
  • Amsterdam University
  • Author
  • Playwright
  • Professor

Dr. Petronella Breinburg (1927 to 2019) was a Surinamese British author, playwright and professor - and one of the first black British authors to write picture books about black children.[1] My Brother Sean,[2] illustrated by Eroll Lloyd and published by The Bodley Head,[3] was followed by a series, including Sean Goes to School,[4] Sean's Red Bike[5] and Doctor Sean.[6] Petronella also wrote books focused on older children, including her first book Legend of Suriname,[7] Us Boys of Westcroft[8] and Stories from the Caribbean.[9]

Personal life

Petronella, of mixed European and African heritage, was born in Suriname in 1927. Her father, a policeman, died when she was 12 and the whole family - there were six children - went to live with her grandmother, near an old Dutch plantation. This grandmother used to terrify the children with tales about the old Dutchman who had owned the plantation.[10]

Influenced by a lineage of storytellers, Petronella enjoyed writing from a young age, winning local competitions from age eight and writing her first play at 13.[11] She was educated at St. Rosa and St. Margaret's Convent in Suriname before training as a teacher. After emigrating to Guyana with her husband, she gave birth to two children. In Guyana, she was a member of the Red Cross Society for 10 years, serving for some time as Lieutenant of the Girls Life Brigade. Petronella came to the UK with her two children to join her husband in 1961.[12] Petronella was a supply teacher in some of London’s toughest schools where her experience of racism and representation shaped her writing.[8]

In addition to English, Petronella spoke Surinamese and Dutch.[11]


  • Legends of Suriname (1971) [13]
  • Sean Goes to School (1974) [4]
  • Us Boys of Westcroft (1975) [15]
  • Doctor Sean (1975) [16]
  • Sean’s Red Bike (1976) [17]
  • Girl Frog & Petticoat (1977) [18]
  • One Day, Another Day (1977) [19]
  • Sally-Ann's Umbrella (1977) [20]
  • Sally-Ann in the Snow (1977) [21]
  • Sally-Ann's Skateboard (1979) [22]
  • Tiger, Paleface and Me (1979) [23]
  • Brinsly's Dream (1980) [24]
  • Stories From The Caribbean (2000) [25]
  • Jeremia and The Trumpet Man (2001) [26]
  • Goodasyu: Crescendo (2011) [27]


  1. "Petronella Breinburg". Oxford Reference. doi:10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095526121 (inactive 2020-08-31). Retrieved 2020-08-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of August 2020 (link)
  2. Hoffman, Mary (2015-10-13). "25 years of Amazing Grace". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lloyd, Errol (2019). "My Time With Children's Literature in Breaking New Ground: Celebrating British Writers and Illustrators of Colour" (PDF). The Book Trust.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Shawn Goes to School". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  5. "Go deeper: Reflecting on Black presence in children's books". The British Library. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  6. "Doctor Shawn". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  7. "Legends Of Suriname". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Petronella Breinburg | George Padmore Institute". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  9. "Stories From The Caribbean". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  10. Pavord, Anna (9 September 1973). "Anybody seen Petronella's Fiery Horseman?". The Observer Magazine. Last accessed at The George Padmore Institute. File 145.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Breinburg, Petronella (7 September 2019). "Lennox Salmon is In conversation with Dr Petronella Breinburg (8:37)". Vimeo. Retrieved 29 August 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. Breinburg, Petronella (7 September 2019). "Lennox Salmon is In conversation with Dr Petronella Breinburg (6:40)". Vimeo. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  13. "Legends Of Suriname". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  14. "My Brother Sean". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  15. Breinburg, Petronella. Us Boys of Westcroft. ASIN 0333188144.
  16. "Doctor Shawn". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  17. "Shawn's Red Bike". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  18. Breinburg, Petronella (1977). A girl, a frog and a petticoat. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-22751-0. OCLC 16429705.
  19. Breinburg, Petronella. One Day, Another Day. ASIN 0333215443.
  20. Breinburg, Petronella (1975). Sally-Ann's umbrella. London: Bodley Head. ISBN 978-0-370-10752-3. OCLC 8188667.
  21. "Sally-Ann in the Snow". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  22. Breinburg, Petronella (1979). Sally-Ann's skateboard. London: Bodley Head. ISBN 978-0-370-30166-2. OCLC 6128382.
  23. Breinburg, Petronella. Tiger, Paleface and Me. ASIN 0333173082.
  24. Petronella, Breinburg. Brinsly's Dream. ASIN 0140311122.
  25. "Traditional Stories". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  26. "HSJ; Jeremia & The Trumpet Man by Petronella Breinburg, David Cobb | Waterstones". Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  27. Breinburg, Petronella. Goodasyu: Crescendo. ASIN 095499924X.

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