Beloved English children’s author and illustrator, Shirley Hughes passed away at the end of last month, aged 94.

Hughes is a perennial family favourite, and even those who may not recognise her name are likely to be familiar with her illustrations which so aptly capture the expressions and inner lives of young children, a skill that made her stand out from the rest.

Observation inspires my writing for children – you get a feel for them, how they stand when they’re unsure of themselves, running off like birds, jumping for joy. I get the mindset of a child – getting your boots on the right feet or going to a birthday party alone for the first time. These things are serious for small children. 1

Starting out as an illustrator of children’s books, Shirley went on to write and illustrate over 50 children’s stories of her own, including the beloved Alfie series and the classic story of a small child and his beloved toy, Dogger.

Photograph of shelf displaying 'Dogger' and 'Don't Want to Go!' books by Shirley Hughes.
A couple of Shirley Hughes books on the shelf in the Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter

Over her lifetime she achieved many accolades for her contribution to children’s literature including the Eleanor Farjeon award in 1984, the BookTrust lifetime achievement award in 2015, and a CBE in 2017. Her two Kate Greenaway medals for children’s illustrations – for Dogger in 1977 and again for Ella’s Big Chance in 2003 – give an indication of the longevity of her career. 2; 3

As well as holding many of Hughes’ books in our children’s literature research collection and our children’s browsing collection (housed in the Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter), the State Library is lucky enough to be in possession of this beautiful original sketch, a birthday card from 1981 for Albert Ullin OAM, founder of the first children’s bookshop in Melbourne, the Little Book Room.

With very best birthday wishes to Albert Ullin and the Little Book Room from Shirley Hughes, 1981. Drawing by Shirley Hughes. This work is in copyright; H2019.115/8

Do you have memories of your favourite Shirley Hughes books from childhood? Are your children or grandchildren still enjoying her works today?

References

  1. Pearls of wisdom from Shirley Hughes, who has sadly died at 94‘, (2 March 2022), The Oldie, accessed 4 March 2022
  2. ‘Shirley Hughes (1927-)’, 2019, in J. Stock (Ed.), Something about the author, vol 336, pp 102-111
  3. Children’s author Shirley Hughes dies aged 94′, (3 March 2022), BBC News, accessed 4 March 2022

This article has 1 comment

  1. I loved Shirley Hughes books and they were great favourites for my daughter too. They are in the archive!

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