Children’s author and illustrator Shirley Hughes has died aged 94, her family has confirmed.
Hughes was best known for creating the Alfie book series, as well as children’s picture book Dogger.
She died “peacefully at home after a short illness” on Friday in London, her family told the PA news agency.
“Shirley’s books about everyday family life are adored by generations of families and she is held in the highest esteem by her peers,” they said.
Hughes illustrated 200 children’s books throughout her career, selling more than 10 million copies.
Paying tribute, His Dark Materials author Sir Philip Pullman said: “Shirley Hughes was admired, enjoyed, talked about, listened to, read, looked at, thought about as much as any other illustrator has ever been but no other illustrator, I can say for certain, was ever loved as much.”
Born in West Kirby, the daughter of department store chain owner shop TJ Hughes, she studied drawing and costume design at the Liverpool School of Art; and fine art at Oxford’s Ruskin School of Art.
Inspired by the likes of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, 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.
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, she told PA in 2017. “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.”
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 which 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.
‘Touched so many generations’
Reacting to the news of her death, War Horse author Sir Michael hailed Hughes for having “began the reading lives of so many millions”. He told the PA News agency: “We have all grown up with the stories and drawings of Shirley Hughes deep inside us. We’ve enjoyed them for ourselves, with our children, with our grandchildren.
“Shirley must have began the reading lives of so many millions. That moment when you’ve read a book like Alfie and sit back and think, ‘That was wonderful, tell me another’. Thank you Shirley from all of us, children of today and children of yesterday.”
All of us at @BookTrust are devastated to hear the news that Shirley Hughes has passed away at the age of 94.
Shirley’s incredible stories and illustrations, from Dogger to Alfie and Lucy and Tom, have touched so many generations and are still so loved.
Thank you, Shirley. pic.twitter.com/XzL4Gs8tV3
— BookTrust (@Booktrust) March 2, 2022
BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, tweeted that Hughes’ “incredible stories and illustrations” had “touched so many generations and are still so loved”.
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”.
Shirley Hughes, 1927 – 2022, who showed us that love is kind, brave and loyal, and that the beauty in this world is in the big picture and in the detail. This isn’t goodbye, Mum will shine brightly forever. pic.twitter.com/ZXbAZzrqJh
— Clara Vulliamy (@ClaraVulliamy) March 2, 2022
Other authors and illustrators, such as Michael Rosen, have also been paying their respects online.
Shirley Hughes has gone. Long live wonderful, lovely Shirley. You’ve delighted and moved us for years and years and years and will go on doing so. @ShirleyHughes_
— Michael Rosen 💙💙🎓🎓 (@MichaelRosenYes) March 2, 2022
Farewell the incomparable Shirley Hughes.
Such kindness, warmth, love, humour and grace, radiating in such glowing detail from every page, for decade after decade of tireless service to children and their futures.
A beacon of publishing joy and always will be ❤️ pic.twitter.com/wY77NWbZTB
— Piers Torday 🇺🇦 (@PiersTorday) March 2, 2022