I’m originally from Liverpool way but I now live in Leeds with my family, where I make books from my studio in an old mill. I’m very lucky as my dog, Olive can come to work with me, when she isn’t stealing stuff from people’s bins she’s a great source of inspiration.
My illustration and writing journey began as a child, mostly in my local library (thanks to my dad, a lifelong library user). I thought the library was amazing, you turn up and get to take home a pile of books – for free! What could be better than that? Hmm. Maybe something deeply mysterious happening to you! The sort of stuff that happened to the Famous Five in their school summer holidays. (I always hoped mystery was just around the corner after reading those books.)
Bored by the lack of real-life mystery and feeling inspired by a particularly thrilling issue of The Beano (aged eight) I decided to have a go at creating my own comic.
It was a publishing success. I sold (I say sold loosely, ‘gave away’ would be more accurate) three copies to some friends who lived on my street and I knew it was the right decision to abandon my dreams of being an archaeologist (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style) and focus on having a job that involved drawing all day. I wasn’t sure what exactly that was called (it was only later I discovered illustrating was an actual job) and I had a brief flirtation with becoming a shoe designer.
I studied illustration BA and MA illustration at the University of Central Lancashire. This is where I realised you can actually be a children’s book illustrator for a living and was fortunate enough to win second prize in the Macmillan Prize for Picture Book Illustration in 2002.
Since then I’ve illustrated for a range of brilliant authors and been published as both an illustrator and a writer.
I’m a little bit related to the incredible suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. She was – wait for it – my great, great, grandfather’s, brother’s, son’s wife. So while I can’t claim to have suffragette blood running in my veins, I can say that Emmeline’s astounding story has followed me all my life and has undoubtedly influenced my work. That connection certainly led to a conversation that made me realise that a book really should exist that told the stories of great women from history in an accessible way for young readers. Explore the Fantastically Great Women series here.
When I’m not doodling*, writing and drawing I work with children and teachers, sharing my own journey, the stories of great women and inspiring and igniting a love for reading.
*Doodling, in my opinion, is the best way to begin a story. Even a wonky scribble can be a starting point for an imaginary world filled with exciting characters. From small things big things can grow …