Cowell, Cressida 1966–

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Cowell, Cressida 1966–


Born April 4, 1966, in London, England; daughter of Michael (chairman of Kew Gardens) and Marcia (an artist and cancer caring center codirector) Blakenham; married Simon Michael Cowell (a business director); children: three. Education: Oxford University, B.A. (English literature); St. Martin's University, B.A. (graphic design); Brighton University, M.A. Politics: Labour Party. Religion: Church of England.


Home—Hammersmith, England. Agent—Caroline Walsh, David Higham Associates Ltd., 5-8 Lower John St., London W1R 4HA, England.


Children's writer 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), 2004.

(With Holly Swain) There's No Such Thing as a Ghostie!, Puffin (London, England), 2004.

How to Be a Pirate, by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Hodder (London, England), 2004.

Super Sue at Super School, illustrated by Russell Ayto, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

How to Speak Dragonese, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, illustrated by Neal Layton, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2007.

How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse: The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.

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.


Film rights to the "Hiccup" series have been optioned by Dreamworks Studios.


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 that "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 overindulgence in 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" appeal to young readers, and Cowell "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 he im- mediately 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, Cowell's "pictures are full of fun and her text is full of invention and wit."

Cowell continues the adventures of Hiccup in several additional books, including How to Train Your Dragon, How to Be a Pirate, by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, How to Speak Dragonese, and How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse: The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup offers readers a "memoir" of sorts, in which he recounts the various difficulties of his youth when his father still expected him to train to be a great warrior. One of his duties included training dragons, and, as with everything warrior-related, Hiccup found himself a dismal failure. When all of the boys who are in training go off to capture their own dragon, Hiccup comes home with the smallest, most pathetic specimen of the bunch, and even then finds it impossible to train him. A contributor to the Review Stream Web site remarked that Hiccup's adventure "is funny, smart, and captivating." A reviewer for Your Neighborhood Librarian Web log commented: "Hiccup is brave and smart and a loyal friend. This is a funny book with a big heart."

Hiccup finds himself facing dragons once again in Cowell's How to Speak Dragonese. Having enrolled in a school designed to teach him how to be a pirate, Hiccup sets off with his pet dragon Toothless, who has finally been trained, and a group of his classmates as they learn how to board an enemy's ship. However, when they get separated from the rest of the class, they end up boarding a Roman vessel filled with actual enemies instead of a mere practice ship. Ultimately, their mistake leads to much-needed information, however, as they uncover the Romans' plan to steal all of the Vikings' dragons. However, when Hiccup and his friend Fishlegs manage to escape, Toothless is trapped, and Hiccup must find a way to warn the Vikings of the Roman plot and also to rescue his pet. A young reviewer for the Flaming Net review blog remarked: "The story keeps the reader on the peak of excitement so you keep turning the pages." Hilary Williamson, writing for BookLoons, noted that Cowell's effort "is filled with antic black and white illustrations that reflect the humor and context."

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown is an entertaining story with the wit of the Hiccup books but set in a very different universe. In this book, Emily Brown and her friend Stanley—a rabbit—are preparing to take off into outer space when they are interrupted by a knock at the door. But that does not keep them from going off on a series of adventures together, in which Stanley is Emily's faithful companion regardless of the challenge. Anne Heathen, reviewing for the Librarianne blog, praised the illustrations that depict Stanley as always agreeing with Emily, noting that "Stanley's expressions mirror Emily's exactly … with hilarious results."

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)….

"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."



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.

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, 2001, Ann Cook, review of What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby?, p. 205.


BookLoons, (January 22, 2008), Hilary Williamson, review of How to Speak Dragonese.

Flaming Net, (July 7, 2006), review of How to Speak Dragonese.

Librarianne, (May 23, 2007), Anne Heathen, review of That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown.

Review Stream, (January 22, 2008), review of How to Train Your Dragon.

Your Neighborhood Librarian, (August 5, 2007), review of How to Train Your Dragon.