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Kathy Henderson (1949-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1949, in Oxford, England; partner, Nick Davidson (a writer and filmmaker) since 1976; Education: Somerville College, Oxford, B.A. (with honors), 1969; attended Chelsea College Centre for Science Education and Technology, London, 1974-75. Hobbies and other interests: Music, walking, skiing, gardening, looking at pictures, reading.


office—c/o Author Mail, Bloomsbury Publishing, 38 Soho Square, London W1D 3HB, England; Walker Books, 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ, England.


Writer and illustrator. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, England, picture researcher and editor, 1969-71; Penguin Education, Harmondsworth, England, commissioning editor, 1971-74; Inner London Education Authority, London, adult literacy teacher, 1974-78; National Community Development Project, London, editor, 1975-77; University of London, research fellow at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School, 1979-82; Open University, Milton Keynes, England, consultant, 1982-84; Frances Lincoln Ltd., London, commissioning editor; BBC-Schools Radio, children's poetry program writer.

Honors Awards

Shortlisted for Smarties Prize, 1986, for Fifteen Ways to Go to Bed; Sam and the Big Machines was one of Parents magazine's Best Books for Babies, 1986; Children's Books of the Year designation, British Book Trust, 1987, for Sam and the Box, 1989, for The Babysitter, 1990, for Sam, Lizzie, and the Bonfire, 1993, for In the Middle of the Night, and 1995, for Motorway Madness; Kurt Maschler Award, 1995, Smarties Prize shortlist, 1995, and Highly Commended designation, Kate Greenaway Award, 1996, all for The Little Boat; Primary English Award, Best Children's Picture Book, 1996, for A Year in the City; Kate Greenaway prize/shortlist, 2000, for The Storm.

Kathy Henderson



Sam and the Big Machines, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1985.

Fifteen Ways to Go to Bed, Macdonald (London, England), 1986.

Sam and the Box, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1987.

The Babysitter, Deutsch (London, England), 1988.

Fifteen Ways to Get Dressed, Macdonald (London, England), 1989.

Sam, Lizzie and the Bonfire, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1989.

Annie and the Birds, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1992.

Annie and the Tiger, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1992.

Counting Farm, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

Dotty the Hen, Walker (New York, NY), 1996.

The Storm, Walker (London, England), 1999, Cambridge Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

And the Good Brown Earth, Walker (London, England), 2003, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.


(Illustrator) Michael Rosen, Once There Was a King Who Never Chopped Anyone's Head Off, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1974.

Don't Interrupt, illustrated by Sue Hellard, Barron's (Hauppage, NY), 1988, reprinted, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2003.

The Baby's Book of Babies, photographs by Anthea Sieveking, Windward (Leicester, England), 1988, Dial (New York, NY), 1989.

Baby Knows Best, illustrated by Brita Granström, Walker (London, England), 1991.

Second-Time Charley, illustrated by Anthony Lewis, Walker (London, England), 1992.

(Selector) The Bedtime Book: Stories and Poems to Read Aloud, illustrated by Penny Ives, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 1992, Barrons (Hauppage, NY), 1992.

Pappy Mashy, illustrated by Chris Fisher, Walker (London, England), 1992.

In the Middle of the Night, illustrated by Jennifer Eachus, Macmillan (London, England), 1992.

Jim's Winter, illustrated by Paul Howard, Walker (London, England), 1992.

Bounce Bounce Bounce, illustrated by Carol Thompson, Walker (London, England), 1994, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.

Bumpety Bump, illustrated by Carol Thompson, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.

The Little Boat, illustrated by Patrick Benson, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.

Motorway Madness, illustrated by Tony Kenyon, Hodder (London, England), 1995.

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle: A Play, Ginn (Aylesbury, England), 1995.

A Year in the City, illustrated by Paul Howard, Walker (London, England), 1996, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

Crow Talk, illustrated by David Hughes, Walker (London, England), 1996.

Metal Muncher, illustrated by Ant Parker, Hippo (London, England), 1996.

Dan's Old Van, illustrated by Andy Hammond, Ginn (Aylesbury, England), 1996.

The Tree House, illustrated by Bruce Hogarth, Ginn (Aylesbury, England), 1998.

Cars, Cars, Cars!, illustrated by Charlotte Hard, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 1999.

The Storm, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

The Baby Dances, illustrated by Tony Kerins, Walker (London, England), 1999, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Newborn, illustrated by Caroline Binch, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 1999, Dial (New York, NY), 1999.

Baby Knows Best, illustrated by Brita Granström, Doubleday, 2001, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.

Tabby Cat's Secret, illustrated by Susan Winter, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2002.

Dog Story, illustrated by Brita Grandström, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2004.

Pets, Pets, Pets illustrated by Crhis Fisher, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2004.


Sam and the Big Machines, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1985.

Sam and the Box, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1987.

Sam, Lizzie, and the Bonfire, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1989.


Water, illustrated by Diane Tippell, McDonald (London, England), 1986.

Banana, illustrated by Diane Tippell, McDonald (London, England), 1986.

Sweater, illustrated by Diane Tippell, McDonald (London, England), 1986.

Lego Brick, illustrated by Diane Tippell, McDonald (London, England), 1986.

Bread, illustrated by Diane Tippell, McDonald (London, England), 1987.

Letter, illustrated by Diane Tippell, McDonald (London, England), 1987.


(Editor with Frankie Armstrong and Sandra Kerr) My Song Is My Own: One Hundred Women's Songs, Pluto Press (London, England), 1979.

Also author of children's poetry radio programs Pictures in Your Mind and Something to Think About, for BBC-Schools Radio.


British writer and illustrator Kathy Henderson is the creator of an entertaining selection of picture books for young children. In addition to writing, she has also illustrated several of her books, among them Fifteen Ways to Get Dressed, which was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize; And the Good Brown Earth; and The Storm, which was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway prize for illustration. Henderson has also earned awards for several picture-book texts, including The Little Boat, which with illustrations by Patrick Benson earned the Kurt Maschler Award as well as a Smarties Prize shortlist. The British Book Trust has also honored several of her titles with Book-of-the-Year kudos, among them Sam and the Box, The Babysitter, and In the Middle of the Night.

After attending Oxford University, Henderson got a job in publishing in 1969. She continued to work in this field, as well as in education, for several years before embarking on her second career as an author/illustrator. In fact, Henderson's first children's book, 1974's Once There Was a King Who Never Chopped Anyone's Head Off drew on her artistic talents; the text was written by Michael Rosen. Henderson published her first solo effort for children, Sam and the Big Machines, more than a decade later, in 1985. Featuring both text and illustrations by the author, the story revolves around Sam, a curious young boy who loves watching big earthmoving machines. Getting too close to a construction site, he slips and finds himself at the bottom of a huge pit—the growing cellar hole of a large building. Then a power shovel scoops Sam up and dumps him into a truck full of sand. Sam travels with the sand through other machines until he ends up high atop a scaffold with a load of cement brought up by a huge crane.

Praising Henderson's colorful, well-detailed illustrations, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called Sam and the Big Machines "a dream-come-true for the truck-and-engine set," and with such a reception Henderson had Sam return in two more books of adventures. In Sam, Lizzie and the Bonfire Sam and sister Lizzie play in their family's overgrown garden, where old leaves, sticks, and discarded boxes are transformed into swords, tents, and an invisible enemy. When smoke from a nearby bonfire scares the two young children, Lizzie and Sam fight back, dousing the smoke with a bucket of muddy water that accidentally soils the clean clothes hanging on a neighbor's clothesline. Commenting on Henderson's illustrations, a reviewer for Growing Point wrote that "the expressive scenes in acid colour give a strong illusion of movement," while "the postures and expressions of the children show plainly how completely they have been lost in their story-book world."

In addition to tales featuring the escapades of Sam, Henderson has written many more books for the picture-book set. Fifteen Ways to Get Dressed finds young children donning all manner of duds, from brand new shoes and natty hats to fancy costumes, zipped-up jeans, and button-up-the-back dresses. Here Henderson punctuates lighthearted poems—called "chatty and spontaneous" by Margery Fisher in a Growing Point review—with energetic watercolor wash and line drawings that make the most of her colorful topic. Poetry is also central to The Little Boat, Henderson's gentle story of the journey of a handmade boat as it sails out to sea on a summer breeze. And her In the Middle of the Night sensitively illuminates the world of those who work while the rest of us sleep: cleaning crews, astronomers, mail sorters, bakers, garbage collectors, train conductors, hospital staff, and even alley cats. Praising Henderson's text as "concrete and rhythmic with a subtle use of half rhyme and assonance," Hazel Rochman added in a Booklist review that In the Middle of the Night gives readers a sense of security when tucked in bed, and makes them feel "connected with tomorrow and the towns down the line."

Annie and the Birds is a counting book for toddlers that also features watercolor illustrations by author Henderson. In a town park, Annie and her mother feed first a single sparrow, then two ducks. More and more birds approach the pair, until an approaching cat sets the birds aloft. Baby Knows Best contains what School Library Journal contributor Jody McCoy termed a "buoyant" text that describes a host of infant activities brought to life through "beaming" illustrations by Brita Granström. In Bounce Bounce Bounce and Bumpety Bump the fun continues as games are introduced that involve lots of noisy, rambunctious fun, from banging on pots to bouncing on the furniture and riding on Grandpa's knee. "These simple, happy books are just right" for the younger set, Virginia E. Jeschelnig maintained in School Library Journal, praising Henderson's fun approach and antic-filled water colors.

The importance of family figures in several of Henderson's picture books, and she has credited her own family with much of her inspiration. In her self-illustrated The Storm, which was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Award in 2000, Jim and his mother flee their home and the rising sea to take shelter with his grandmother during a fierce storm. A Publishers Weekly contributor praised the author's "depiction of fierce winds, hail, and white waves crashing against an inky horizon," while in Horn Book Joanna Rudge Long added that "Nature's power … is celebrated in all its beauty" in Henderson's illustrations. Also focusing on the power of nature, And the Good Brown Earth finds another young boy and his grandmother tending their neighboring gardens, his an unkept tangle of vegetables, weeds, and wildflowers and hers a tidy vegetable patch but both yield up delicious food. Praising the book about its subtle message regarding individuality, Susan Scheps noted in School Library Journal that And the Good Brown Earth is a "treasure of a book [that] highlights the bonds between the generations and between gardeners and the earth."

In addition to her talent for creating engaging characters, Henderson has a strong understanding of the power of language, and this, along with her affection for her young audience, adds to her books. "I like to write for the ear, to play with rhythm, assonance, alliteration (and other people's expectations) …," she once told SATA. "This may have a little to do with having studied English language and literature. It certainly has a lot to do with a life-long interest in music of all kinds, including oral narrative." In addition to her numerous picture books, Henderson, along with Frankie Armstrong and Sandra Kerr, compiled a collection of British women's songs from the oral tradition titled My Song Is My Own: One Hundred Women's Songs.

An artist as well as a writer, Henderson enjoys creating visual imagery to enhance her stories for small children. "I've always drawn and painted," she once explained to SATA, "and I work now as an artist and printmaker as well as an illustrator. The way words and pictures work together is a thing I find endlessly interesting. I have explored this in forms ranging from stage design through cartooning, layout and design, editing illustrated books of all kinds (from history of art to contemporary politics), to children's book illustration." She responded to a Bloomsbury Web site interviewer's question about where she finds story ideas: "I wish I knew! They just come sneaking up, usually when I'm not expecting them."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, January 15, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of In the Middle of the Night, p. 948; April 15, 1994, p. 1541; May 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Newborn, p. 1599; July, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of The Baby Dances, p. 1943; January 1, 2000, review of The Baby Dances, p. 824; August, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of Baby Knows Best, p. 1971; March 1, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of And the Good Brown Earth, p. 1195.

Growing Point, July, 1989, Margery Fisher, review of Fifteen Ways to Get Dressed, p. 5198; January, 1990, review of Sam, Lizzie, and the Bonfire, pp. 5269-5270; November, 1991, p. 5617.

Horn Book, November, 1999, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Storm, p. 728.

Junior Bookshelf, April, 1990, p. 73; October, 1991, p. 213; June, 1992, p. 103.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1987, pp. 795-796; March 1, 2002, review of Baby Knows Best, p. 336; March 1, 2004, review of And the Good Brown Earth, p. 223.

Publishers Weekly, May 29, 1987, review of Sam and the Big Machines, p. 76; January 20, 1992, p. 64; August 7, 1995, p. 460; May 17, 1999, review of Newborn, p. 78; December 6, 1999, review of The Storm, p. 77; March 29, 2004, review of And the Good Brown Earth, p. 62.

School Library Journal, March, 1992, p. 215; October, 1995, p. 104; July, 1994, Virginia E. Jeschelnig, review of Bounce Bounce Bounce and Bumpety Bump, p. 78; March, 2002, Jody McCoy, review of Baby Knows Best, p. 188; April, 2004, Susan Scheps, review of And the Good Brown Earth, p. 112.


Bloomsbury Web site, http://www.Bloomsbury.com/ (October 20, 2004), interview with Henderson.

Walker Books web site, http://www.walkerbooks.co.uk/ (January 31, 2005).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Bob Graham (1942-) Biography - Awards to Francis Hendy Biography - Born to Sew