About Me

A Short Illustrated Autobiography

I was born in Leicestershire in 1965, the son of a mechanical fitter and a primary school teacher.

Me, in our back garden in Enderby, with my mum and older brother.

I loved books from an early age and some of my earliest memories are of visiting our local library in the village of Enderby. The picture books that I borrowed then, including Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss have had a great influence on the picture books I now write.

Although I enjoyed writing and drawing stories as a child, my writing and illustration really began to blossom in my early twenties while I was studying architecture at Nottingham University. Many of the drafting and colouring skills I developed designing buildings could also be used for illustration and I began spending more and more of my spare time writing and illustrating poems and rhyming stories. 

The Thing That Lives Under the Bed and The Hermit & the Tower were written and illustrated when I was studying to be an architect.
(Click the images to see larger versions)

I qualified as an architect but, after a few years working in the building industry, I left to become a stay-at-home dad and to try my luck at a new career in children’s books. Six weeks later I had the good fortune to be taken on by veteran children’s literary agent Gina Pollinger and a couple of months after that I received a contract and an advance to write, illustrate and paper-engineer Scraposaurus Wrecks, a large novelty book about a father and son who build a huge dinosaur out of scrap metal. Unfortunately, after this promising start, my luck ran out when a foreign co-publisher pulled out of the project and my UK publisher decided that the book was too costly to publish on their own.

The scrapping of Scraposaurus Wrecks was a huge disappointment at the time, but its acceptance by a publisher gave me the confidence to continue to pursue a career in children’s books and eighteen months later, my first book, Doohickey and the Robot, was accepted  – AND subsequently published – by Oxford University Press.

The novelty book, Scraposaurus Wrecks, was the first book I had accepted by a publisher, but never made it to publication. So Doohickey and the Robot was the first book I had published.

When I started out as a children’s author I’d intended to illustrate my own work. However my current agent Caroline Walsh (who took over when Gina Pollinger retired) persuaded me to focus on writing. Caroline explained that there were many illustrators who could produce good picture book illustrations, but relatively few authors who could write good picture book texts. Since I was able to write good picture book texts, Caroline advised me to concentrate on these and let others do the illustrations. This turned out to be excellent advice and I’ve been making a living as a picture book author ever since!

One of my own, unpublished illustrations for my first picture book Fox’s New Coat, which was eventually published with illustrations by Penny Ives.

I’ve since written over sixty children’s books and my work has been translated into over 30 different languages. My books have won several book awards in the UK, the US and beyond including the FCBG Red House Children’s Book Award for Pigs Might Fly and the Sheffield Children’s Book Award for The Pig’s Knickers.

Receiving the FCBG Red House Children’s Book Award in 2006 for Pigs Might Fly with illustrator Steve Cox and my children, Max and Laura.

And receiving the Sheffield Children’s Book Award in 2011 for The Pig’s Knickers.

I now live in Nottingham with my wife Rachel and have two grown-up children, Max and Laura, who inspired many of my books when they were younger. When I’m not writing, my hobbies include playing board games and designing and making unusual furniture.

This playroom storage unit is the largest piece of furniture I’ve made. The cupboards on either side of the unit have dens on top of them. The right hand den is accessed via the external ladder, while the left hand den is accessed via a ladder hidden in the back of the cupboard, which leads up to a trapdoor in the den floor. The curvy shapes of the red panels were inspired by the illustrations of Dr. Seuss.