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Peter Barrett's career as an illustrator took off after writing and illustrating a three book series for very young children, along with his wife Susan Barrett. Published by Ward Lock, the books (The circle Sara drew, The square Ben drew, The line Sophie drew) became very popular. He subsequently concentrated on animal art and illustrations, illustrating numerous children's non-fiction books, specializing in dogs, horses and dinosaurs. His illustrations for Birdwatcher's Diary, by Roger Lovegrove, in 1982 drew critical acclaim.
A biographical perspective of his work was published in 1986 by his wife Susan Barrett titled "Travels with a wildlife artist: the living landscape of Greece". Peter Barrett illustrated the book and also contributed to the text. In the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, his stature as an animal artist and children's book illustrator has grown hand in hand. Peter illustrated reprints and collections of famous animal centric stories and books by Gerald Durrell, Desmond Morris and James Herriot.He illustrated a number of books under the highly popular Little Golden Books label for children. He has also illustrated the 1987 Random House edition of the children's classic The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.