Swain House Primary School
Headteacher: Mrs Dianne Richardson

Class Pages  »  Year 3 - Shirley Hughes  »  All About Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes is one of the best-loved and most innovative creators of books for young children. She has written and illustrated over 50 books, sold more than eight million copies, won major awards and created some of the most enduring characters in children's literature, including Lucy and Tom.

The Basics
Born: West Kirby, July 16th 1927
Jobs: Freelance illustrator & writer
Lives: London
First Book as author and artist: Lucy & Tom's Day, 1960

The Books
Shirley began her career in children's books by illustrating other writers' work - "very 'home counties' in those days - 10 or 12 line drawings, colour on the jacket. But not pony books. I was useless at drawing ponies". Her first big break was with The Hill War - a book about the Scottish moors, which required a lot of line work. The book led to work illustrating fairy tales, which in turn yielded a commission to illustrate a book by Noel Streatfeild - the doyenne of children's books at that time. This, in turn, brought Shirley a huge coup - the chance to illustrate the latest title in Dorothy Edwards' popular My Naughty Little Sister series. This collaboration proved so successful that Edwards asked Hughes to reillustrate all the existing titles in the series.

Shirley's professional and private life came together as she raised a young family and gained first-hand experience of how children behave and what they like to read. This influenced the first book that Shirley wrote as well as illustrated - Lucy & Tom's Day, published in 1960. As Shirley says, "at that time... there weren't many books for young children about real life - what it feels like getting up in the morning, going to the shops, having lunch and so on." This idea proved so popular that Lucy and Tom became a series, which continues to evoke feelings of warmth and familiarity amongst readers. In 1977, Shirley won the Kate Greenaway medal for Dogger, another tale of an ordinary and yet monumental family incident - the loss of a much-loved toy.

Shirley's Alfie books also draw their appeal from familiar elements. At the same time, they show how experimental an artist and designer Shirley Hughes is. From her wordless picture book Up and Up, through the split-screen technique of Alfie Gets in First, to the lush cinemascope of Enchantment in the Garden, Hughes never stops innovating.

In 1984, Shirley Hughes received the Eleanor Farjeon Award for distinguished services to children's literature. In 1999, she was awarded an OBE.

Shirley's daughter, Clara Vulliamy, is herself a picture book creator. "We don't comment on each other's work too much," says Clara, "although occasionally I'll ask for an opinion and, very sparingly, she'll make some suggestions... there's nobody's respect I'd rather have. As an illustrator, she is second to none."