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Sue Heap (1954-) Biography

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

Born 1954, in Hampshire, England. Education: Hull College of Art, B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Riding motorcycles, travel.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140.


Author and illustrator, 1991—. Has also worked in book design and publishing.

Honors Awards

Nestle Smarties Book Prize, 1998, for Cowboy Baby.



Fraser's Grump, Julia MacRae Books (London, England), 1993.

Ants in Your Pants, Little Hippo (London, England), 1997.

Busy as a Bee, Little Hippo (London, England), 1997.

Cowboy Baby, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998.

Baby Bill and Little Lil, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 1999.

Princess Dress, Scholastic (London, England), 1999.

What's in a Number?, Walker (London, England), 1999, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Hairy Fairy, David Fickling (London, England), 2001.

The Giggle-a-Day Jokebook, Collins (London, England), 2001.

What Shall We Play?, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Four Friends Together, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

(With Nick Sharratt) Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly, Puffin (London, England), 2003.

Four Friends in the Garden, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.


Sandra Gilfeather, What's That You're Doing?, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1985.

Jacqueline Wilson, How to Survive Summer Camp, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1985.

Eric Finney, Billy and Me and the Igloo and Other Poems, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1986.

Eric Finney, Billy and Me and the Church Hall Sale and Other Poems, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1986.

Eric Finney, Billy and Me and a Cowboy in Black and Other Poems, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1986.

Judith Drazin, Funny Stories, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Sheila Lavelle, The Boggy Bay Marathon, Orchard Books (London, England), 1987.

Jerome Fletcher, Alfreda Abbot's Lost Voice, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Michael Harrison, editor, Splinters: A Book of Very Short Poems, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Dyan Sheldon, Harry and Chicken, Walker (London, England), 1990, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.

Dyan Sheldon, Harry's Holiday, Walker (London, England), 1992.

Barbara Ireson, Stinky Stories, Bodley Head (London, England), 1992.

Dyan Sheldon, Harry the Explorer, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.

Vivian French, Tillie McGillie's Fantastical Chair, Walker (London, England), 1992.

Delia Huddy, Puffin at Sea, Julia MacRae Books (London, England), 1992.

Delia Huddy, Puffin Ashore, Julia MacRae Books (London, England), 1992.

Dyan Sheldon, Harry on Vacation, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

Diana Hendry, Why Father Christmas Was Late for Hartle-pool, Julia MacRae Books (London, England), 1993.

Jill Bennett, A Jumble of Clothes: Poems, Doubleday (London, England), 1993.

Patrick Catling, John Midas and the Radio Touch, Methuen (London, England), 1993.

Diana Hendry, The Thing-in-a-Box, Young Lions (England), 1993.

Sheila Lavelle, The Apple Pie Alien, Orchard Books (London, England), 1993.

Sheila Lavelle, The Topsy-Turvy Teacher, Orchard Books (London, England), 1994.

Sheila Lavelle, Spots in Space, Orchard Books (London, England), 1994.

Jamie Rix, The Dreaded Lurgie, Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1994.

Mark Haddon, Secret Agent Handbook, Walker (London, England), 1994.

Penelope Bennett, Town Parrot, Walker (London, England), 1994, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.

Adèle Geras, Gilly the Kid, Macdonald Young Books (Hemel Hempstead, England), 1995.

Alan Durant, Mouse Party, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1995.

Diana Hendry, Happy Old Birthday, Owl, Julia MacRae Books (London, England), 1995.

(With Nick Sharratt) Jacqueline Wilson, Double Act, Doubleday (London, England), 1995, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1998.

David Martin, Little Chicken Chicken, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

Diana Hendry, The Thing-on-Two-Legs, Collins (London, England), 1996.

S. E. Hinton, The Puppy Sister, Collins (London, England), 1996.

Phyllis Root, The Hungry Monster, Walker (London, England), 1996, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1997.

Dyan Sheldon, Elena the Frog, Walker (London, England), 1997.

Sue Limb, Chicken Mission, Orchard (London, England), 1997.

Sue Limb, Tree Trouble, Orchard (London, England), 1997.

(With Nick Sharratt) Jacqueline Wilson, Double Act, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Michael Rosen, editor, Night-Night Knight and Other Poems, Walker (London, England), 1998.

Susan Gates, The Three Heads in the Well, Scholastic (London, England), 1998.

Helena Pielichaty, Simone's Letters, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Jamie Rix, The Magic Waste-Goat, Little Hippo (London, England), 1999.

Vivian French, Space Dog Finds Treasure, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.

Vivian French, Space Dog Meets Space Cat, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.

Vivian French, Space Dog Visits Planet Earth, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.

Vivian French, Space Dog to the Rescue, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.

Max Eilenberg, Cowboy Kid, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Vivian French, Space Dog, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2000.

Vivian French, Space Dog Goes to Planet Purrgo, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2000.

Myra Barrs and Sue Ellis, I'll Tell You a Story and Other Story Poems, Walker (London, England), 2001.

Amanda Macardie, Davy and the Snake, Red Fox Press (London, England), 2001.

Michelle Knudsen, Valentine's Day, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Nick Sharratt) Jacqueline Wilson, Biscuit Barrel, Cliffhanger, and Buried Alive, Corgi Yearling (London, England), 2001.

Frieda Wishinsky, Just Mabel, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 2001.

Helena Pielichaty, Simone's Website, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.


Sue Heap emerged in the 1990s as one of Great Britain's best-known and busiest illustrators. Heap made the move to full-time illustration in 1991 in the midst of a successful career in book production. She has never looked back as the assignments have poured in, and her work has gained notice on both sides of the Atlantic. As Katherine MacAllister put it on the This Is Oxfordshire Web site, Heap "has found her niche, loves it and is doing extraordinarily well for a relative newcomer in such a highly competitive market."

Sue Heap's bright paintings depict little Cowboy Kid whose bedtime rituals are interminable until Sheriff Pa comes up with a solution. (From Cowboy Kid, written by Max Eilenberg.)

Heap was born in Hampshire, England but moved frequently as a child, spending periods in such exotic locations as Egypt and Singapore. Perhaps as a result of her rather rootless lifestyle, she drifted to writing and drawing as a youngster and illustrated her first book at the tender age of twelve. Later she earned an art college degree and worked in a variety of positions in commercial art—including animation—before taking a chance in the competitive world of book illustration. Today her work is so successful that she is able to travel for fun, and her visits to America have inspired some of her best-known books.

In America Heap is known primarily as the author/illustrator of the award-winning Cowboy Baby and its sequel written by Max Eilenberg, Cowboy Kid. Inspired by a trip Heap made to the American West, Cowboy Baby explores the creative efforts of one youngster who wants to avoid going to bed. First the toddler cowboy must find Texas Ted, Denver Dog, and Hank the Horse—his trusty stuffed animal sidekicks. Then he tries to hide from "sheriff" Dad, who must finally resort to magic to lure the tired cowboy to bed. "Adults as well as children will be charmed," enthused Ilene Cooper in Booklist. Ruth Semrau in School Library Journal felt strongly that children would enjoy the book at bedtime, adding: "The pictures are winners for the toddler set." A Publishers Weekly critic concluded that Cowboy Baby "nimbly enters into a toddler's sense of play." The title won the 1998 Nestle Smarties Book Prize, one of the United Kingdom's most prestigious awards.

Cowboy Kid, illustrated by Heap, features the same toddler a little later in life. Now he is a preschooler, but he still needs those sidekicks and his Stetson hat for comfort at night. He also needs hugs and kisses—but exactly how many of those will lull him into sleep? Dad is called upon again to rustle up a solution to this common bedtime dilemma. In School Library Journal, Judith Constantinides found Cowboy Kid "just as appealing" as its predecessor and an "excellent bedtime offering." In Booklist, Kay Weisman suggested that Heap's "striking yet simple figures" are "just right" for the intended preschool audience.

Even though she writes her own books, Heap finds much of her time dedicated to illustrating the works of others. The Hungry Monster by Phyllis Root explores the attempts of a monster, newly arrived from outer space, to find something truly edible. As a young girl watches, the clueless—and not terribly scary—monster devours flowers and rocks, not liking either. When the monster decides to eat the little girl, she offers it a banana instead. It consumes the fruit peel and all, but likes it all the same. In Horn Book, Marilyn Bousquin noted that Heap's "bold watercolors" convey a "sophisticated simplicity." Dawn Ibey in School Library Journal also praised the "bright and colorful" artwork.

Among books for older readers, Heap has co-illustrated Double Act, a novel in the form of dual diaries by identical twins. Ruby and Garnet look exactly alike, but they are polar opposites in personality and ambition. Their differences surface during a period of family upheaval, when their father finds a new girlfriend and takes a job in a new city. Faced with these challenges, each girl musters the courage to assert her individuality. Although a Publishers Weekly reviewer faulted the book as "unexceptional" and "almost gratingly obvious," with "flat and unrevealing" artwork, Miriam Lang Budin in School Library Journal felt that the black and white cartoons Heap created with Nick Sharratt "add to the generally lighthearted tone."

Baby Bill and Little Lil is another title that Heap wrote and illustrated that has leaped the Atlantic and found warm audiences in America. The two tiny siblings set out on an adventure after Baby Bill decides that he wants a pet "fishy." Bill gets a pail, and he and Lil set off for the beach, gathering animal friends as they go, including a bird, a bee, some sheep, a dog, and a cat. Like Jack and Jill, Baby Bill and Little Lil wind up tumbling down a steep slope onto the shore. No one is hurt, but Bill's pail lands in the waves and is swept away by the current. When he begins to weep, his sister encourages him to be patient, and together they wait for the tide to turn as their animal friends one by one give up hope and leave. Jody McCoy in School Library Journal commended Baby Bill and Little Lil for its "surreal quality that sometimes appeals to the very young." A Publishers Weekly critic liked the "vibrancy and cheeriness" of the work and concluded that it reveals "the artist at her best."

Both Four Friends Together and What Shall We Play? teach important lessons to preschoolers who are learning how to get along together. In What Shall We Play?, Lily May must wait for her turn to choose a playtime activity. She wants to be a fairy, but first she must cooperate with her friends, in turn posing as a tree, a car, and even a blob of Jell-O. In the end Lily May's patience is rewarded when her friends join her in a game of fairies, sprouting wings and wands and flying away. "The illustrations soar with them," Laurie Edwards observed in School Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly critic called What Shall We Play? "a spirited, spontaneous offering that subtly demonstrates the rewards of patience."

Four Friends Together tackles the thorny issue of competition. Mary Clare wants to read to her four stuffed animals, but she can't accommodate them all at once. If she sits close enough to Seymour the Sheep, then Rachel the Rabbit can't see the pictures. In order to make Rachel happy, Mary Clare must move farther from Florentina the Bear. How Mary Clare solves this problem provides the happy ending to the story. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found the book an "imaginative playtime romp" and an "enchanting tale," and Kay Weisman in Booklist deemed it "a great choice for even the youngest story hour participants."

In her spare time Heap likes to ride motorcycles and travel to faraway places. On the This Is Oxfordshire Web site she said: "I do feel that my job is a huge honour and it still delights and surprises me to find myself in this profession. … I think I'm very lucky."

Story time with all its cozy intimacy is captured in Heap's whimsical text and richly decorative acrylic illustrations. (From Four Friends Together.)

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, March 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Cowboy Baby, p. 1141; October 15, 2000, Kay Weisman, review of Cowboy Kid, p. 444; June 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of What Shall We Play?, p. 1737; October 1, 2003, Jennifer Locke, review of Four Friends Together, p. 327.

Coventry Evening Telegraph (Coventry, England), August 9, 1999, "She's a Smart One," p. 5.

Guardian (London, England), July 25, 2001, "Parents: Building a Library for Your Child," p. 9.

Horn Book, March-April, 1997, Marilyn Bousquin, review of The Hungry Monster, p. 195.

Publishers Weekly, January 12, 1998, review of Double Act, p. 60; April 13, 1998, review of Cowboy Baby, p. 73; September 20, 1999, review of Baby Bill and Little Lil, p. 87; May 22, 2000, "Many Happy Returns," p. 95; April 1, 2002, review of What Shall We Play?, p. 82; July 28, 2003, review of Four Friends Together, p. 93.

School Library Journal, May, 1996, Kathy Piehl, review of Little Chicken Chicken, p. 94; May, 1997, Dawn Ibey, review of The Hungry Monster, p. 113; March, 1998, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Double Act, p. 226; May, 1998, Ruth Semrau, review of Cowboy Baby, p. 116; December, 1999, Jody McCoy, review of Baby Bill and Little Lil, p. 98; July, 2000, Judith Constantinides, review of Cowboy Kid, p. 71; April, 2002, Laurie Edwards, review of What Shall We Play?, p. 112.


This Is Oxfordshire, http://www.thisisoxfordshire.co.uk/ (February 3, 2004), Katherine MacAlister, "Children's Writer Sue Heap Discusses Her Inspirations."

Additional topics

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