More recently celebrated for his two volumes of Shakespeare Stories and for The Animated Tales of Shakespeare, which won him a Globe award for an outstanding contribution to Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, Garfield made his name with more than 40 novels for children. Many, such as Smith (1967), Black Jack (1968) and The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris (1971) have become school library classics. He has won most major awards for children's fiction including the Carnegie Medal and Whitbread Award.
His favourite setting, the critic John Rowe Townsend writes in TES2, is "an 18th-century London. . . owing much to Hogarth and Fielding, and also looking forward to Dickens, but in essence the product of his powerful imagination. The Garfield style, highly coloured and uninhibitedly metaphorical, sailed dangerously close to the wind but never quite capsized."
From the mid-1970s he turned increasingly to Biblical themes. "He believed that the Bible incorporated 'the whole range of human experience [and] poetry at the highest level'," Rowe Townsend writes.
Tributes, TES2, page 6.