Neal Layton

Neal Layton

Neal Layton was born in Chichester, England. He is the illustrator of many wonderful books for children, including Smile If You're Human, by Michael Rosen, about which Booklist said: "Layton's zany cartoon illustrations set this tale apart from the average picture book."

Q & A

Where did you grow up?

 Chichester, UK.


What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?

Making a book called Space Cat when I was about 5 or 6 using crayons, felt tips, my Dad’s stapler and lots of headed writing paper that he used for his job.


What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?     

All the great books I have read, or that have been read to me…


Do you use your childhood as inspiration? 

Yes. I had a great childhood with many memories that I constantly revisit.

In many ways my own childhood memories seem even more powerful now that I am an adult, and a parent.


What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?

As I child I regularly visited our local library. Some favourite books that immediately spring to mind are:

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Birningham

All of Richard Scarry’s books

Anything by Dr Seuss (these were the first books I chose for myself)

The ‘Petit Nicholas’ series by Goscinny and Sempe

Emile and the Detectives by Erich Kästner

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Richmal Compton’s ‘William’ books which my Dad used to read to me each night.


Books that I am reading at the moment:

Asimov’s Short Stories

Peter Akroyd’s London

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip


What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?

I skateboard and currently own at least 10. A few years ago I competed in a World Cup Race in Scheid, Switzerland. I came 88th out of a field of 90!


I also make electronic music from homemade synthesizers. My 7-month-old daughter likes to join in these musical compositions by providing improvised abstract accompaniment on her own keyboard.


Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators?

What is it about theirwork that inspires and interests you? 

Gosscinny and Sempé, Kveta Pacovská, Saul Steinberg, Roger Duvoisin, Tove Janson, John Birningham, Andre Francois…there are so many…


Their ability to create a wonderful, complete and unique world between the pages of a book.


What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?

Follow your inner nose.



The Mammoth Academy in Trouble!

Neal Layton; illustrations by Neal Layton

Oscar, Arabella, and their friends can’t wait to begin their second termat theMammoth Academy. But when they arrive at school on the first day after winter break, there’s a threatening...