Shirley Hughes, beloved children’s author, dies aged 94

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Children’s author and illustrator Shirley Hughes has died aged 94, her family has confirmed.

Shirley Hughes was best known for creating the Alfie book series, as well as the children’s picture book Dogger. And according to her family, she died “peacefully at home after a short illness”,  in London. Speaking of the beloved writer, her family said, “Shirley’s books about everyday family life are adored by generations of families, and she is held in the highest esteem by her peers.”

Hughes illustrated over 200 children’s books throughout her career, selling more than 10 million copies around the world.

An illustration of Alfie by Shirley Hughes

© Shirley Hughes

Born in West Kirkby near Liverpool, the daughter of department store owner TJ Hughes, she studied drawing and costume design at the Liverpool School of Art; and fine art at Oxford’s Ruskin School of Art. Her early work included illustrations for Dorothy Edwards’ ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ before she wrote and illustrated her own first book, Lucy And Tom’s Day, in 1960.

‘Big breakthrough’

Hughes’ much loved and widely read series Alfie was first published in 1977 and centred around a young boy and his little sister, Annie Rose. While Dogger, from the same year, was about a little boy who loses his stuffed dog toy. The inspiration behind it came from a real-life lost toy. “We did look everywhere, but we never found it,” she said. “[The actual] Dogger was a present to our son when he was two years old. At that time, both his ears flopped over, but [Dogger] was pressed so lovingly against his owner’s face that one ear was pushed upwards, so when I came to do the story, I used him as a model.”

Shirley Hughes

© Shirley Hughes

She added: “When the book was finished, I was told it was too English to be popular abroad. However, it proved to be my big breakthrough and has been published in many different languages all over the world.”

The publication won her the Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded to “an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people”. She won it again in 2003 for Ella’s Big Chance, a reimagining of Cinderella, and was awarded the inaugural BookTrust Lifetime Achievement award in 2015 by a judging panel that included Sir Michael Morpurgo and Malorie Blackman. “I have derived so much fulfilment from my long career, first as an illustrator of other artists’ stories and then creating my own,” she said on winning the award.

Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes © Jonathan Brady

Hughes, who guest-edited an edition of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2017, was appointed a CBE for services to Children’s Literature the same year.

She was married to architect John Vulliamy, with whom she had three children. She went on to collaborate with her daughter and fellow illustrator, Clara, on the Dixie O’Day series.

Leading the tributes to her late mother, Clara said her work would “shine brightly forever”. And other authors and illustrators, such as Michael Rosen, have paid their respects online.

About Post Author

Stephanie Jones

Stephanie Jones is an freelance journalist, author and academic. Her work has featured in The Sunday Times, Stylist Magazine and is a commentator on Welsh radio.
author

Stephanie Jones is an freelance journalist, author and academic. Her work has featured in The Sunday Times, Stylist Magazine and is a commentator on Welsh radio.