Shirley Hughes death: Beloved children's author dies aged 94

Hughes sold over 11 million copies of her books

Sam Moore
Wednesday 02 March 2022 08:56 GMT
Children’s author Shirley Hughes has died aged 94
Children’s author Shirley Hughes has died aged 94 (Geraint Lewis/Shutterstock)

Shirley Hughes, the children’s author and illustrator has died, aged 94.

Over a career spanning 70 years, Hughes was behind beloved children’s classics such as Dogger and Olly and Me.

The news was confirmed by her family on Twitter through a statement which read: “It is with deepest sorrow that we announce that Shirley died peacefully in her sleep at home on Friday 25th February. Ed, Tom and Clara, Shirley’s children.”

Hughes’ career spanned 70 years and the author penned over 60 books, becoming one of the most popular children’s authors in the UK.

Her biggest success was Dogger, which told the story of a boy who lost his toy dog. Published around the world, Dogger won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1977 which recognised the best illustrated children’s book in the UK.

Dogger was later voted the most popular winner of the award.

A number of Hughes’ contemporaries paid tribute to her including former children’s laureate Michael Rosen who said: “At the core of Shirley’s work is a child’s feeling, a child’s emotions. She spent her whole life taking this as seriously as many take adult feelings and emotions. This is part of what made her so special and so important.”

His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman also said: “She’s such a warm and benevolent presence in the lives of uncountable numbers of children, and the parents who loved her when they too were children, that it’s impossible to imagine how we ever did without her.”

He added: “Shirley and the characters she’s drawn and written about are a great family of witnesses to the power of love and kindness. We could talk for hours – with a multitude of examples – of her mastery of the craft of illustration, of her close and unwavering observation of children as they’re busy with all the things that are so important to them, of her sheer technical genius.”

Illustrator James Mayhew said of Hughes: “No one observed & captured the touching details of childhood & domesticity like Shirley. Her passing marks the end of a Golden Age. But what a legacy!”

Eliza Clark, author of Boy Parts also paid tribute on Twitter: “The work of Shirley Hughes (particularly Dogger, chronically misread as ‘Dodger’ in my home) was such a lovely presence in my childhood. She leaves a beautiful legacy behind.”

Jane Casey, who wrote the Maeve Kerrigan series of books, said: “The magical thing about Shirley Hughes was that she understood the specific solemnity of childhood and how large small adventures (like a leaking roof) can loom. She left us beautiful, tender, insightful books.”

Hughes was born in Cheshire in 1927 and later went to Oxford’s Ruskin School of Drawing. She started her career illustrating for other authors including Dorothy Edwards who wrote the now-classic My Naughty Little Sister.

She wrote the first book of her own – Lucy and Tom’s Day – in 1960 which grew to be a long-running series.

As well as children’s books, Hughes started writing novels in 2015 when she was 84.

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