Cowell, Cressida 1966-
COWELL, Cressida 1966-
PERSONAL: Born April 4, 1966, in London, England; daughter of Michael (chairman of Kew Gardens) and Marcia (an artist and cancer caring center codirector; maiden name, Hare) Blakenham; married Simon Michael Cowell (a business director); children: Maisie, Clementine. Education: Oxford University, B.A. (English literature); Brighton University, M.A. (narrative illustration). Politics: Labour Party. Religion: Church of England.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Caroline Walsh, David Higham Associates Ltd., 5-8 Lower John St., London W1R 4HA, England.
CAREER: Children's author and illustrator.
(Self-illustrated) Little Bo Peep's Library Book, Hodder (London, England, 1998, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(Self-illustrated) Don't Do That, Kitty Kilroy!, Hodder (London, England), 1999, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2000.
What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby? illustrated by Ingrid Godon, Scholastic Press (New York, NY), 2000.
(Self-illustrated) Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick, Hodder (London, England), 2000, published as Hiccup, the Seasick Viking, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2001.
One Too Many Tigers, illustrated by Andy Ellis, Hodder (London, England), 2002.
Claydon Was a Clingy Child, Hodder (London, England), 2002.
How to Train Your Dragon, Hodder (London, England), 2003.
Super Sue (pop-up book), illustrated by Russell Ayto, Walker (London, England), in press.
What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby? has been translated into twenty-one languages, including Welsh, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, Tamil, Urdu, Chinese, Panjabi, Gujarati, and Farsi.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A sequel to How to Train Your Dragon, a novel for older readers featuring the Hiccup character, for Hodder (London, England); ; Daddy on the Moon; The Queen and the Ghosties.
SIDELIGHTS: Cressida Cowell writes and illustrates books for young children. In her first book, Little Bo Peep's Library Book, she stands the familiar nursery rhyme on its head and sends Little Bo Peep to the library to look for her sheep. Once there, Mother Goose directs her to books that may help her find her friends. There are three smaller books inserted into the pages of Little Bo Peep's Library Book and the cover is even decorated with a library sticker and bar code. "Cowell's winning watercolors sparkle with wit," claimed a Publishers Weekly critic, who predicted, "kids will want to keep this one in their own personal libraries." Calling the book "outstanding," a Books for Keeps reviewer found that the author/illustrator "plunges the reader into a most convincing nursery rhyme world that is wittily contextualized."
Don't Do That Kitty Kilroy! features a character who may be familiar to young readers—a youngster who does not want to listen to her mother. Kitty Kilroy is tired of being bossed around and tells her mother to leave her alone. Her mother grants the wish and Kilroy embarks on a day filled with junk food, messing up the house, and late-night television. Finally, Kilroy, feeling ill from her over-indulgence of food and freedom, realizes that she needs her mother to help her to bed and end the crazy day. Writing in Publishers Weekly, a contributor found that books about "pushing a situation . . . to its logical if ultimately silly conclusion always" appeals to young readers, and the author/illustrator "mines the set-up with brio."
Cowell's 2000 book What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby? allows young children to participate in the animals sounds and baby's humorous bawling. The cow, dog, cat, and duck are desperate for baby to stop crying, trying everything from feeding him, to bathing him to calm him down. They finally put him to bed and he quiets down, only to wake up just as the animals are collapsing from exhaustion. A Publishers Weekly critic noted that this tale for toddlers will "have readers hooting and howling." Several reviewers considered What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby? excellent selections for story hours, with School Library Journal contributor Ann Cook remarking "this title is a joy to read aloud."
In Hiccup, the Seasick Viking, originally published in England as Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick, Cowell's main character is anything but a strong and fearless Viking. Hiccup is tiny and thoughtful, much to his father's disappointment. His dad, Stoick the Vast, is a huge and brave Viking, who insists that real Vikings do not get scared or sick. In order to prove himself to his father, Hiccup sets sail on the family ship, but immediately gets seasick. The other Vikings laugh at him, until a storm arrives and everyone is sick. Hiccup observes his fellow Vikings dealing with their fears and illness, and it gives him strength. He bravely steers the boat out of the storm and into a safe harbor. Children can learn a valuable lesson in this book where "Cowell gives practical advice about facing fears," remarked a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. According to a Books for Keeps critic, the author/illustrator's "pictures are full of fun and her text is full of invention and wit."
Hiccup continues his adventures in a second book. Cowell told CA: "How to Train Your Dragon, is Hiccup's own story, written by him for seven- to ten-year-old readers . . . 'translated' from the Old Norse (and also in parts from Dragonese). . . . This book has been bought by Little, Brown for publication in the United States."
"As a child, I spent my summers on an uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. There were no roads or other houses. There was no phone, electricity, or television.
"My parents were very young and they knew no fear. My father drove a turquoise boat, more appropriate to flashing around the Thames than braving the gales of the stormy Hebrides. The fact that he had very little experience on the sea did not stop him from being an exceptionally bossy captain. The Stoick the Vast character in Hiccup is based upon fond memories of my father barking out orders as he accidentally ran aground, or attempted to tie the boat to a lobster pot instead of an anchored buoy, or steered us into stormy weather while hopelessly overloaded with children or luggage.
"I have since married a Scot with some good Viking blood in him, and I have two intrepid little girls.
"I try to write books that sound wonderful when read aloud and that both children and adults will enjoy reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2001, p. 967.
Books for Keeps, May, 1999, review of Little Bo Peep's Library Book, p. 22; November, 2001, review of Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick, p. 23.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July, 2000, p. 394; February, 2001, p. 219.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2000, p. 119.
Magpies, July, 2001, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1999, review of Little Bo Peep's Library Book, p. 93; March 6, 2000, review of Don't Do That, Kitty Kilroy, p. 110; October 2, 2000, review of Hiccup, the Seasick Viking, p. 81; November 6, 2000, review of What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby?, p. 89.
School Library Journal, March, 2000, pp. 190-192; November, 2000, p. 113; March, 2001, Ann Cook, review of What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby?, p. 205.
Spectator, December 11, 1999, p. 58; December 9, 2000, p. 48; December 8, 2001, p. 53.