Liz Pichon: Books that changed my life

Author and illustrator Liz Pichon, known for her bestselling Tom Gates series for children, shares the books that shaped her

The Bad Speller by William Steig

Reading this as a child was a life-changing moment. Although I loved reading, I found it quite difficult, not realising then that I was dyslexic. My mum had an American friend who bought me this book because she knew how much I struggled with spelling, and she thought it would make me laugh. It really did. And it stuck in my memory a lot. Even now, it’s one of those books that never seems to age.

"It’s one of those books that never seems to age"

I love the drawings—they planted a seed in my head somewhere that pictures and words go together and can be really funny, and that you don’t have to do things in the kind of “normal” way.

Silly Verse for Kids by Spike Milligan

This book is so tiny and thin, but I loved that it had all these silly poems inside—and it made me want to write rhymes, and to have a go at drawing. It’s just completely bonkers—which obviously Spike Milligan was himself, in a good way. After reading this, I started writing my own poetry. I’m always including silly poems and lyrics in my books and I think that’s definitely down to the influence of this book.

The illustrations in it didn’t feel unobtainable either—you could copy them yourself. It was just one of those books that you would read as a kid and it would really spark your imagination, and I think if you read the poems in this book to children now, they’d still find as much pleasure in them.

Jaws by Peter Benchley

This book has a particular meaning for me. In school, I had a teacher who didn’t have a television. It made me think when I had to come up with a story for my homework, I could just change the plot of Jaws a little and he’d never know. When he read it, he thought it was amazing—but he wanted to share it with the deputy heads, and I had to do everything possible to sway him.

"I think pinching other people’s stories, or copying other people’s illustrations, is a great way of learning how to do things"

I tell that story to children now, because I think pinching other people’s stories, or copying other people’s illustrations, is a great way of learning how to do things—by seeing how other people do them.

Author and illustrator Liz Pichon is best known for her Tom Gates series for children, which has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. Her new book, You Can Draw Tom Gates, is out now, published by Scholastic.

Cover image by Clara Molden. 

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