When my sister-in-law Margo was browsing in a bookstore with me in London once, she delighted in discovering a new hard cover Collection by Shirley Hughes. Though I had not ever seen any of her children’s picture books then, I was to learn that she is one of the most well known, highly respected, and much loved authors and illustrators for young children in the UK and and also worldwide. Her classic picture book series Dogger, Alfie, and Lucy and Tom are probably the best known, but she has illustrated many more collections of poems and stories written by herself and by others.
Though this unique anthology clearly celebrates a lifetime achievement and does include some of her classic favourites, the only reservation I have with it is that it is a large heavy book which may not be the best for young children’s hands. The individual soft cover stories are perhaps a better choice, also if you wish to collect more of a certain series.
In researching Hughes, I discovered this interesting tidbit in a Telegraph article. “Hughes is the first recipient of the Book Trust Lifetime Award. Allan Ahlberg, author of Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum, turned down the inaugural award last year, because it is sponsored by the online retailer Amazon.” Apparently Hughes had no problem with that, and was delighted to accept it, as well as an OBE in 1999 for her contribution to children’s literature and countless other awards. Even though she is still spry at 88, she is sending some of her original artwork to the Bodelian Library in Oxford for safe keeping because of “infernal dust.”
I love what she said in this Telegraph Article about children’s picture books: “It’s my job with a picture book to slow children down, make them pore over the drawings and recognise their world,” says Hughes. “Even before they read, they are learning to be readers, to notice things and make connections.” Click on the link if you want to see the whole article.
Like the books by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ and ‘Peepo’) Hughes’ books focus on the everyday life and the concerns of small children. Her illustrations are warm and earthy, with people and homes portrayed in a very real manner that draws the reader in.