Shirley Hughes, a British writer and illustrator whose books about children’s everyday dramas and escapades entertained and reassured generations of young readers and their parents, died Friday at her home in West London. She was 94 years old.
Her family announced death on Twitter.
Ms. Hughes, whose own childhood was limited by World War II, has written and illustrated more than 70 books for children of all ages, including two novels for young people.
She was perhaps the most famous Doger (1977) in which a boy named Dave loses his favorite soft toy when he is distracted by a school fair and the prospect of an ice cream cone. There comes a drama, which is expressed in the direct prose sentences of Mrs. Hughes. After a few easy jumps and the intervention of older sister Dave Dave and Doger reunite.
Her latest book, a seasonal sequel called “Dogger for Christmas,” was published in the fall of 2020, when she was 92 years old.
Mrs. Hughes became a favorite person in England, she was honored by Queen Elizabeth II and showered with awards. She greeted the interviewers at her home in Notting Hill, where they filmed her in clothes she sewed herself, with white hair coming out of the bundle as she sat behind a drawing board demonstrating with a confident hand as she created her books, of which more than 12 million have been sold worldwide.
She spent hours playing in the district playgrounds, watching the children move, stand, run and play. What fascinated her most was the way the child’s body conveys emotions — triumph and shyness, fear and sadness, determination and joy, intentional or not. She returned to the drawing board to sketch her sketches of the movement with quick impressionistic strokes, to then paint with gouache.
The stories she illustrated and came up with for her young characters – locking in a house with all the adults on the other side of the door, admiring best friends with a propensity for trouble – depict grandiose dramas the size of a child. the world in terms of those who inhabit it.
“Illustrations are clever – realistic, but dreamy”, wrote the novelist Mary Gordon in The New York Times Book Review in 1984, evaluating three Alfie books. “They depict the world of happily disheveled children in” catch as catch “clothes.
Ms. Hughes has often expressed concern about growing pressure on children. “They always have something to do,” Ms. Hughes said in an interview with The London Telegraph in 2017. – It is difficult to protect them from excessive stimulation. My whole idea is to slow them down and make them look at the picture slowly at their own pace. ”
Don’t put pressure on them to read, she said. “It’s not a competition, although you might think some parents go that way.”
She firmly believed that children should be bored, because, according to her, boredom is a fertile ground for imagination and creativity. And she was horrified that books for senior readers were not illustrated.
“I can’t hear adults telling children that they can no longer have picture books because they can read!” she wrote for her page at its publisher’s website. “Why remove such great narrative pleasure?” She included illustrations in all her books, including novels.
Shirley Hughes was born on July 16, 1927 in West Kirby, a small English town on the Whirlpool Peninsula near Liverpool. She was the youngest of three daughters of Thomas J. and Kathleen (Dowling) Hughes, who met at the Public Library after his return from service at the Royal Flight Corps during World War I.
Her father was the founder of TJ Hughes, a lucrative department store in Liverpool. Shirley was 5 years old when her father died after acute depression and business failure, reportedly committed suicide.
Shirley, her sisters and mother remained on the Virral during World War II. Over the years of rationing, power outages, bombings, and devastating fatigue, Shirley and her sisters had fun playing clothes and staging plays, which led Shirley to study costume design at the Liverpool School of the Arts and from there to draw in Ra. Oxford School of the Arts.
Although she left the theater early, Ms. Hughes considered her picture books a stage work. For example, in “Alfie Comes Home First,” for example, she shares a scene showing adults on one page from the outside of a closed door and Alfie on the other.
Mrs. Hughes counted the illustrators Arthur Rackham and E. H. Shepard among her influences, but also Buster Keaton’s films and American comics that reached Britain during the war, in which movement and emotion were so clearly reflected.
In an article about Ms. Hughes in The Guardian in 2009, author Philip Pullman claimed that she managed to convey these emotions. “Doger and Alfie are the smallest incidents – down to the stress of shoes – but these things can be a source of real anxiety for the child,” he wrote. “And I think that’s where she’s better than Shepard. During his heyday, working at Punch, there were many images of exquisite quality that are painfully sentimental.
“You just don’t get that in Shirley,” Mr. Pullman added. “It’s much clearer and clearer, and therefore represents a really warmer version of childhood.”
For Mrs. Hughes, the Nazi bombings of English cities and towns in 1940 and 1941 remained for her fond memories. Her first novel for young people, The Hero on a Bicycle, about a family living near Florence, Italy, during World War I, was published in 2012 (2013 in the United States), and she drew on her own experience in Whistle in the Dark ”(2015), about the military experiences of a teenage girl and her family and friends in Liverpool.
In both books the father is absent: in the first he fights in the Resistance; in the second – a victim of war at sea. Blitz also appears in “Ruby in Ruins” (2018); in this book the father returns from the war but is so changed that he feels in front of Ruby a stranger in the house.
In 2017, Ms. Hughes was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to literature. Her numerous awards include two Kate Greenway medals, the prestigious British Children’s Book Illustration Award – in 1977 for “Dogger” and in 2003 for “Ella’s Great Chance”.
Mrs. Hughes and her husband, architect John Wally, raised three children at their home in Notting Hill (television viewing was strictly regulated), where they moved in 1954. She worked as a freelance illustrator when her first book, Lucy and Tom Day, was published in 1960.
Mr. Beehives died in 2007 Mrs. Hughes was survived by their daughter Clara Woolley, a children’s author and illustrator; two sons, Ed, a journalist, and Tom, a professor of molecular biology; and a number of grandchildren.
Ms. Hughes said she had spent “quite a bit of time” in recent years responding to children’s letters. “Writing can be a little tricky at times, but they almost always involve drawing,” she says told The Guardian.
“How well do you know how to draw?” or “How do I stop my story from getting boring in the middle?” they once asked, “How to make it beautiful?”
“I’m still trying to find an answer to that question,” Ms. Hughes said.