Sarah Nayler: Children's book illustrator

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The Independent Online

Sarah Nayler was a gifted and prolific illustrator with a deceptively simple style. Her work was enriched by a vitality and humour and caught the imagination of her admirers by encapsulating a devilish sense of fun.

Best known for her children's books, she worked with some of Britain's best-loved children's writers. Her lively illustrations accompany Pat Moon's award-winning Do Not Read Any Further. Collaborators included Dick King-Smith, Michael Rosen, Jenny Oldfield and Kes Grey. She illustrated Grey's endearing Ever So Ever So and Baby on Board. Other works include The Cowboy Next Door for the Oxford Reading Tree education series, Granny Nothing by Catherine MacPhail and Paul Cookson's Dinosaur Poems and Silly Poems. She also worked on Deborah Ross's and Claudia Winkleman's columns in this newspaper.

Nayler's work was inspired by listening, observing and sketching the people, animals and places closest to her – her husband Tim, her children Alfie and Polly, assorted goldfish, cats and a particularly accident-prone dog. Rarely without a sketch book, she maintained that drawing kept her sane. She was able to turn her talent to an incredible variety of commissions – from tea packaging to illustrations showing how the human body works for a children's space at Birmingham Science Museum.

Sarah Nayler was born in Rochford in 1971 and grew up in Norfolk. From an early age she compensated for the challenges of dyslexia by channelling her energies into drawing. She studied art at Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design, where she was encouraged to have faith in her potential by the art teacher Martin Rhodes. Later, she attended Hull University, where she met her husband, the graphic designer Tim Reed. On graduation from Hull in 1994, she moved to London and pounded the pavements of Fleet Street with her portfolio before securing work as an illustrator for the Evening Standard Magazine.

Nayler was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. During her illness she was closely involved with the Breakthrough Breast Cancer. In 2006 she completed a 60km walk around London to raise money for the charity's work to fight breast cancer through research, campaigning and education.

A tribute page to Sarah Nayler has been set up here for anyone wishing to make a donation in her memory.


Sarah Jane Nayler, illustrator: born Rochford, Essex 9 February 1971; married 1998 Tim Reed (one son, one daughter); died 13 August 2008.