Neal's latest book What is AI? explores the, as yet, little explored world of artificial intelligence. We all have LOTS of questions about AI. What exactly is it? Why is it such a big deal? Are there any risks? And how is it going to transform our lives? 

Covering topics from metadata to ChatGPT, this book takes us on a journey through time from early calculating machines to AI algorithms of today that can recognise human speech and recommend TV shows. Putting artificial intelligence in context, What is AI?  also highlights just how incredible the human brain is and is sure to be devoured by young tech fanatics as well as anyone who want to make sense of this complex subject.

Multi-award-winning author and illustrator Neal Layton, has a long history of creating engaging and informative non-fiction books for children. With a deep-seated interest in conservation and information he has a unique skill in delivering complex theories and themes in an accessible way for a broad audience. Neal has collaborated with some of the country’s most successful authors including Cressida Cowell and Michael Rosen, but his unique creative style particularly lends itself to this non-fiction format. His cast of comic style characters lead the reader through a world of information in an easy to navigate way, a book perfectly complimenting his other non-fiction titles which include The Story of Things and The Story of Stars. You can read more about his extensive backlist HERE.

Neal kindly answered a few of our questions about working on this book project.

You always do so much research for every book you do but what was the most surprising thing you discovered when you researched this book?

The most surprising fact I learnt is that the human brain is the MOST COMPLEX thing in the known the universe - and we all have one! I love this idea. It's not something made, or bought, it's something we are born with.

What is your favourite spread?

I think my favourite artwork shows humans spreading over Planet Earth, because it covers a huge amount of human history: migration, shelter building from huts to cities, the development of machines, transportation and farming!

Spread from What is AI? showing humans spreading across the planet - illustration by Neal Layton

Similarly, I also enjoyed making the spread of the nursery and school room, which shows how children develop from babies playing to crawling, walking and thinking. There is a lot of hidden detail, for instance the boy drawing on the floor shows how most children's drawings develop from scribbles to pre-schematic stage, to simple figuration.

If humans made a Superbrain that was clever enough to write and illustrate books like this one, would we need writers and illustrators anymore?

I hope so! I'm not sure I want to live in a world where all creativity is made by algorithms... it seems kind of soulless! I love finding new artists or authors and part of the interest for me, is discovering about their lives. Who were they? In what period of history did they live? It gives their work context. If something is made in an algorithm pulled from datasets, that context is gone.

See more spreads from this project.

What is AI?  by Neal Layton publishes with Hachette Children’s Books on the 4th July, pre-order your copy here.

You can find Neal on Instagram where he posts about his up-coming projects, events, and sneak peeks. You can view his online portfolio HERE. If you are interested in collaborating with Neal, please email

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Neal Layton - What is AI cover