Axel was born in Hamburg, Germany. At school he was good at art, but didn't think of a career in illustration until he won a cuddly purple cow in a drawing competition. He moved to England in 1982 to learn English and study illustration at the Bath Academy of Art and then set up home in London. Axel illustrated a number of books for various publishers, and in 1993 Kate suggested him as the illustrator for Julia Donaldson's first picture book text, A SQUASH AND A SQUEEZE. This was the start of a hugely successful partnership. Axel lives in London with his partner and their daughter.