Born in 1964, James Mayhew studied illustration at Maidstone College of Art, graduating in 1987 with first class honours. His first book for children Katie's Picture Show (Orchard Books) was published in 1989, beginning his million-selling series of books introducing the work of famous artists to children. There are now nine books about Katie, exploring artists from the Italian Renaissance to Post-Impressionism.
A passionate advocate of art and culture for the very young, James's books range from Shakespearean anthologies (To Sleep, Perchance to Dream; Shakespeare's Storybook), through to grand opera (The Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera) and most recently ballet, with the Ella Bella Ballerina series. His books are published in many languages including Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, Catalan, Greek, German, Italian, Brazilian, French, Korean, Finnish, Danish, Swedish and Estonian.
James has now published over fifty books for children and has illustrated works by many well known contemporary writers: Philippa Pearce's Beauty And The Beast (Macdonald), Elisabeth Beresford's Lizzie's War (Hodder), Martin Waddell's Boneless And The Tinker (Orchard Books), Joyce Dunbar's Mouse & Mole books (Corgi - adapted for television in 1997 and featuring the voices of Alan Bennett and Richard Briers), and Jenny Koralek's The Boy And The Cloth Of Dreams (Walker Books), for which he was awarded the New York Times Book Illustration Prize in 1994.
As a writer, James enjoys creating texts for other illustrators, including Who wants a Dragon? for Lindsey Gardiner (short listed for the Sheffield Children's Book Award) and Can you see a little Bear? for Jackie Morris.
An experienced storyteller, James has devised and performed unique orchestral concerts for children with narration and live illustration, including Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Stravinsky's Firebird and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition for the de Havilland Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2008 he was invited to participate in workshops and children's promenade performances at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
His book Koshka's Tales: Stories From Russia (Kingfisher Books), has been adapted for the Syracuse symphony Orchestra, New York as a children's concert using music by Rimsky-Korsakov and he has also illustrated for the Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera, St. Petersburg and for the Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York.
James is invited to speak internationally at schools and at Literary and Arts festivals, including the Cheltenham, Bath and Edinburgh Festivals, organising a wide variety of art projects with children. He has taught courses on writing for the Arvon Foundation, and also teaches illustration at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
Forthcoming projects include new Katie and Ella Bella titles.
James is a member of the Art Worker's Guild and the Society Of Authors.