About Cressida (and below this there are some QUICK FACTS if you need them for your book report)


I grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. The island had no roads, houses or electricity. The name of the island is a secret, but it was such a small island it wasn’t really big enough to have a name at all. There were no roads or shops, just a storm-blown, windy wilderness of sea-birds and heather.

When I was four, my family would be dropped off like castaways on the island by a local boatman and picked up again two weeks later. In those days there were no mobile phones, so we had absolutely no way of contacting the outside world during that time. If something went wrong, we just had to sit tight and hope that the boat really did come to pick us up in two weeks time.

This is Cressida, aged 9, writing on the island

This is Cressida, aged 9, writing on the island

By the time I was eight, my family had built a small stone house on the island, and my father got a boat, so we could fish for enough food to feed the family for the whole summer.

From then on, every year we spent four weeks of the summer and two weeks of the spring on the island. The house was lit by candle-light, and there was no telephone or television, so I spent a lot of time drawing and writing stories. In the evening, my father told us tales of the Vikings who invaded this island Archipelago twelve hundred years before, of the quarrelsome Tribes who fought and tricked each other, and of the legends of dragons who were supposed to live in the caves in the cliffs.

This is Cressida, her husband Simon and their 3 children, setting off for the island

This is Cressida, her husband Simon and their 3 children, setting off for the island

It seemed perfectly possible that dragons might live in this wild, stormy, place. So I was only eight or nine years old when I first began to write stories about Vikings and dragons.

When I left school, I went to university to study English, and then to art college where I got degrees in graphic design and illustration.

For my final project at art school I created a childrens’ book called ‘Little Bo Peep’s Library Book’, and I was lucky enough to have that book published by Hodder Childrens’ Books in 1998. Since then I have written ten more picture books, including the ‘Emily Brown’ stories, which won the Nestle childrens’ book prize in 2006.

In 2002 I began to write a book for older children. I remembered the stories I had written on the island as a child, and turned these ideas into the book ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’ There are now eight books in the Hiccup series and I am working on the ninth.

A film of “How to Train Your Dragon’ is being made by DreamWorks Animation and will be in the cinemas in March 2010.




Cressida was born on 15th April 1966 in London.

She still lives in London. She is married to Simon Cowell (not THAT Simon Cowell), and she has three children, Maisie (12), Clemmie (10) and Alexander (7).

She studied at Oxford University, (English), and St Martin’s and Brighton University (Illustration).

Books & Ideas

Cressida has been writing books since she was 9 years old, but the first book she had published was in 1999, when she was 33. It was called Little Bo Peep’s Library Book, and it was a picture book.

Cressida illustrates the Hiccup books herself, but she also writes picture books that other people illustrate. She has had 20 books published, 10 Hiccup fiction titles, and ten picture books, including the Emily Brown books, illustrated by Neal Layton.

She has just finished writing the tenth Hiccup book, How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel. There will be AT LEAST eleven books in the series. (She is a little nervous about saying exactly how many, because she keeps finding that there is just one more to write...)

She got the idea for the Hiccup books from childhood holidays spent off the west coast of Scotland. (See above)

She doesn’t quite how she thinks of the funny names for the characters. She tries to make the names sound like the character of the person they are describing, so a rather unpleasant, stupid person will be called ‘Dogsbreath the Duhbrain’, for example. The Vikings really did have very descriptive names, such as King Magnus Barelegs, Olav the Stout, Eric the Red.

Films & Awards

The film of How to Train Your Dragon came out in 2010 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 in 2014. Another film is coming in 2018. A TV series, Riders of Berk, is on Netflix.

Cressida won the Nestle Children's book award in 2006 and the How to Train Your Dragon film has been nominated for the 2011 BAFTAs and the Oscars. Cressida won Philosophy Now magazine's 'Contributions in the Fight Against Stupidity Award' in November 2015.

Likes & Dislikes

Cressida likes: dragons, books, movies, plays, musicals, boats, the sea in general, chocolate, drawing.

Cressida dislikes: spiders, limpets (for eating – trust me, not nice),

Odd Facts

Cressida’s best friend at school was Lauren Child, who wrote the Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean books.