James Mayhew

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James Mayhew

James John Mayhew (born 1964 in Stamford, Lincolnshire) is an English illustrator and author of children's books, storyteller, artist and concert presenter/live art performer.

Early life and education[edit]

The son of RAF pilot John Byrne Mayhew and Linda Georgina Mayhew (née Leighton), James Mayhew was brought up in the village of Blundeston, Suffolk.[1] He was a founder pupil of the Benjamin Britten High School and later attended the Denes High School in Lowestoft (for sixth form studies).[2] On leaving school Mayhew studied at Lowestoft School of Art from 1982 to 1984, and then at Maidstone College of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts).[3]

Publishing career[edit]

Mayhew's first published work was Katie's Picture Show (1989). In 1982, a summer as a pavement artist in Lowestoft, recreating famous works of art, inspired this idea, which was subsequently developed at Maidstone College of Art in 1984. This was the start of a series about a girl who explores paintings by climbing inside them. The central character is based on the author's sister, Katharine. There are currently 14 titles in the series, including Katie and the Mona Lisa (Renaissance art); Katie and the Waterlily Pond (Monet's pictures); Katie and the Starry Night (Van Gogh) and the non-art-related title Katie's London Christmas. In 2014 Mayhew re-illustrated the first title for a 25th anniversary edition.[4][5] A musical stage production of Katie and the Mona Lisa was premiered at the Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon in April 2013, subsequently repeated in a revised production at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015.[6] Katie in London was one of 50 books chosen for the Books about Town project in 2014, where books were recreated as benches. Mayhew hand-painted his bench which was positioned near the Tower of London until auctioned off in October 2014.[7]

Mayhew has published over 50 books. They include the Ella Bella Ballerina series, Once Upon A Tune,Miranda the Castaway, Boy, illustrations for the Mouse and Mole books (animated for BBC television, with the voices of Alan Bennett, Richard Briers and Imelda Staunton), Gaspard the Fox series (by Zeb Soanes), Nen and the Lonely Fisherman (by Ian Eagleton), Koshka's Tales (a collection of Russian Folk stories), Can you see a Little Bear?, Mrs Noah's Pockets (story by Jackie Morris) and Bubble and Squeak (with illustrations by Clara Vulliamy). Mayhew has had books published in Japan, China, Korea, Germany, France, Greece, Estonia, Spain, Catalonia, Scandinavia, Russia, Turkey, the US, and other countries. He has also written for television (Melody and Driver Dan's Story Train).[8][9] In 2018 he illustrated the first in a series of books by BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Zeb Soanes, called Gaspard the Fox, about a real urban fox that visits the author in North London.[10]


In 1994 he received The New York Times Award for one of the ten best illustrated books of the year for The Boy and the Cloth of Dreams, written by Jenny Koralek.[11] In 2011 Mayhew was the first illustrator selected to appear on the BBC's Authors Live series for Scottish Book Trust.[12] In 2019 he was long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Prize for his work on Mrs Noah's Pockets. Nen and the Lonely Fisherman (by Ian Eagleton) was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Prize in 2021 and in 2022 was shortlisted for a Bookseller "Book of the Year" award (discovery category).

Presenting concerts[edit]

James Mayhew painting to Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade with The Orchestra of the Music Makers at the Cheltenham Music Festival.

Since 2007 Mayhew has devised and presented classical music concerts for children with different orchestras, ensembles and soloists. These events incorporate narration and live illustration, painted in time to the music, and usually projected. They have included Peter and the Wolf, The Firebird, Swan Lake, Pictures at an Exhibition, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, The Planets, William Tell and Scheherazade. In 2016 he made his debut at the Royal Albert Hall.[13]

Mayhew's collaborations include concerts with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, London Mozart Players, the Doric String Quartet, Carducci Quartet, The Orchestra of the Music Makers from Singapore, The Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, The Docklands Sinfonia, Chetham's Symphony Orchestra, Baroque specialists Realm of Music, and the Russian pianist Alexander Ardakov. In 2013 he designed sets and costumes for a production of the opera Noye's Fludde in Tewkesbury Abbey, to celebrate Benjamin Britten's centenary year, and as part of his role as the Guest Director of the 2013 Cheltenham Music Festival.[14]

In February 2017, the composer Bernard Hughes adapted Mayhew's The Knight Who Took All Day as a concert work for orchestra and narrator. Mayhew himself narrated (and illustrated) the premiere with the Hertford Symphony Orchestra. Later that month, he departed from his usual classical concerts to join the singer-songwriter Tanita Tikaram at the Barbican Centre in London. Mayhew painted to two songs: "Glass Love Train" and "Cathedral Song".[15]

In July 2017, Mayhew performed, as narrator, in the premiere performances of a new orchestral work for children, for which he also wrote the script: The Caretaker's Guide to the Orchestra. The music was composed by Jeremy Holland-Smith and was performed by the Docklands Sinfonia. The performances were directed by Royal Ballet choreographer/director Will Tuckett.[16]

Mayhew is artistic advisor to The Són Project, the Southampton-based professional orchestra.[17]

Other projects[edit]

Mayhew has spoken at festivals, conferences and schools internationally and in 2014 was Illustrator in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He has exhibited at the Scottish National Gallery in 2010 and 2014/15. In 2017 he worked in Singapore and Vietnam, on literary and art projects for both students and teachers. For several years he taught students on the Children's Book Illustration M.A. in Cambridge Anglia Ruskin University, and has taught courses on writing at the Arvon Foundation.[18]

Mayhew is an adviser to the charity Action for Children's Arts, and has served as a committee member for the Children's Writers and Illustrator's Group for the Society of Authors, and is active in campaigning for better opportunities for children and children's authors. The art created at concerts has also raised funds for charities through auctions. He is also patron of Magic Lantern, an arts education charity.[19][20]

Mayhew currently lives in Suffolk with his husband "Toto" (the Catalonian artist Antonio Reche-Martinez).[21]

Books written or illustrated by Mayhew include[edit]

Front cover of Ella Bella Ballerina and The Sleeping Beauty by James Mayhew
  • Katie and the Bathers
  • Katie and the Dinosaurs
  • Katie and the Starry Night
  • Katie and the Mona Lisa
  • Katie and the Sunflowers
  • Katie in London
  • Katie and the Impressionists
  • Katie's Picture Show
  • Katie and the Spanish Princess
  • Katie and the Waterlily Pond
  • Katie in Scotland
  • Katie and the British Artists
  • Katie's London Christmas
  • Katie's Sunday Afternoon
  • Once Upon A Tune
  • Gaspard the Fox (by Zeb Soanes)
  • Gaspard the Fox - Best in Show (by Zeb Soanes)
  • Nen and the Lonely Fisherman (by Ian Eagleton)
  • Gaspard's Foxtrot (by Zeb Soanes)
  • Mrs Noah's Pockets (by Jackie Morris)
  • Mrs Noah's Garden (by Jackie Morris)
  • Who Wants a Dragon? (illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner)
  • When Dragons Are Dreaming (illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner)
  • Bubble & Squeak (illustrated by Clara Vulliamy)
  • Can You See a Little Bear? (illustrated by Jackie Morris)
  • Starlight Sailor (illustrated by Jackie Morris)
  • Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia
  • Ella Bella Ballerina and The Sleeping Beauty
  • Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake
  • Ella Bella Ballerina and Cinderella
  • Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker
  • Ella Bella Ballerina and A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Ella Bella Ballerina and the Magic Toyshop
  • Madame Nightingale Will Sing Tonight
  • Dare You!
  • Miranda the Explorer
  • Miranda the Castaway
  • The Magic Sword
  • Boy
  • The Knight Who Took All Day
  • To Sleep, Perchance to Dream (Shakespeare)
  • Shakespeare's Stories (retold by Beverly Birch)
  • Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera (retold by Shahrukh Husain)
  • Shakespeare's Story Book: Folk Tales that inspired the Bard (retold by Patrick Ryan)
  • Pinocchio (retold by Josephine Poole)
  • Mouse and Mole (written by Joyce Dunbar)
  • Mouse and Mole Have a Party (by Joyce Dunbar)
  • A Very Special Mouse and Mole (by Joyce Dunbar)
  • Happy Days for Mouse and Mole (Joyce Dunbar)
  • The Boy and the Cloth of Dreams (written by Jenny Koralek)
  • The Cloth of Dreams (anthology edited by Sally Grindley)
  • Tales of Ghostly Ghouls and Haunting Horrors (written by Martin Waddell)
  • Boneless and the Tinker
  • Death and the Neighbours
  • Gallows Hill
  • Soft Butler's Ghost


  1. ^ "James Mayhew (5 - 9 years)". Just Imagine. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Popular broadcaster set to return to hometown". The Lowestoft Journal. 19 January 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Muddy meets James Mayhew". Muddy Stilettos. 17 February 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Children's picture books". National Gallery. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Katie and the Waterlily Pond: A Journey Through Five Magical Monet Masterpieces by James Mayhew – review". The Guardian. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  6. ^ "Katie and the Mona Lisa – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh". 3 September 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Katie in London BookBench". Books About Town. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  8. ^ "James Mayhew". Hachette Children's Group. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Talk Vietnam: James Mayhew". Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Gaspard the Fox signs three book deal | Graffeg Publishing". www.graffeg.com. Archived from the original on 21 March 2018.
  11. ^ "New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year, 1952-2002". The New York Times. 17 November 2002. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Authors live: James Mayhew". BBC. 12 May 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Hertfordshire Schools' Gala: Fable and Fantasy". Royal Albert Hall. 13 March 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Designs on Britten: Noye's Fludde at Tewkesbury Abbey". The Guardian. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Tanita Tikaram, Barbican". The Arts Desk. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  16. ^ "The Caretaker's Guide to the Orchestra - Docklands Sinfonia". Classical Music (BBC Music Magazine). 7 July 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  17. ^ "Who We Are". són. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Author Information: James Mayhew". The Watts Publishing Group (archived). Archived from the original on 9 November 2002. Retrieved 5 February 2018.]
  19. ^ "About Us". Magic Lantern. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  20. ^ "Who We Are". Action for Children's Arts. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  21. ^ "James Mayhew, Lincolnshire Writer, Visual & Digital Artist, Interview". Our Queer Art. Retrieved 5 February 2018.

External links[edit]