James Mayhew

Illustrator: mentor in 2021

James Mayhew is the author and illustrator of the long-running and best-selling Katie and Ella Bella Ballerina books. First published in 1989, Katie’s Picture Show established the long-running and best-selling series of books that introduce children to the great works of art, while Ella Bella Ballerina is a bridge to the great ballets of Tchaikovsky and others.

As well as writing most of his own books, James loves collaborating with other writers and artists, including Philippa Pearce, Elisabeth Beresford, Jackie Morris, Clara Vulliamy, Ian Eagleton and many others. It was a particular joy to illustrate Joyce Dunbar’s wonderful Mouse and Moleseries and the Gaspard the Fox books written by BBC presenter Zeb Soanes.

In 1994 James received the New York Times book illustration award for Jenny Koralek’s The Boy and the Cloth of Dreams, while in 2019 Mrs Noah’s Pockets was long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Award. James says that the best reward is seeing a child with one of his books or hearing from a parent who has taken her children to a gallery or a school which has done amazing project work based on his stories as that makes all the hard work worthwhile!

James mentored Gaia Alessi

“I always love the process of really getting to know a mentee, what makes them tick, what their passions are. I think it is important to encourage individuals to find their own voice, and lose preconceptions of what children’s book illustration is supposed to look like, and instead to consider what they could be like. I’ve loved nurturing Gaia and encouraging her to explore projects she feels properly excited about. Through online tutorials, and often quite broad conversations, we have really connected deeply, and found much in common. For Gaia, the thought of writing her own texts was a worry, so I encouraged her to explore mythology and folklore, which has proven to be a really good match for her illustrative world. By helping her find just the right projects, she has really gained confidence, developed her technique, and really found a voice that is unique and special.”