Shirley Hughes’ picture books were a staple of my primary school years and we often borrowed her stories from the library. Her instantly recognisable illustrations immediately transport me back to the book corner in my school classrooms and one of my most cherished childhood books is my well-loved copy of My Naughty Little Sister which Shirley illustrated.
We have several of Shirley’s books on our bookshelf and in celebration of her 90th birthday we’ve chosen our favourites to share with you. We would love to hear about your favourite Shirley Hughes’ books and the memories you have of reading them, either as children or with your children.
Dogger: Dogger is Dave’s very well loved, soft toy. One day Dave takes Dogger to school to collect his sister Bella but, distracted by preparations for the school fair and the ice cream van, Dave forgets about Dogger. At home they turn the house upside down to find Dogger but he is nowhere to be found. At the school fair Dave discovers Dogger on a toy stall but before he can get Dogger back a little girl buys him. Dave is distraught but Big Sister Bella finds a solution that ensures that Dogger is returned to Dave.
Shirley has captured the importance of a soft toy to a child and the emotions that are evoked when that toy goes missing. We’re drawn into the drama of the situation and empathise with Dave’s panic when he realises that Dogger is about to be sold. Dogger takes a timeless look at a situation that is familiar to us all and a special 40th anniversary version of the story has just been published.
Moving Molly: Molly lives in the town but wishes she had a garden. One day the family move to a new house. Molly finds that living in the country is different to what she is used to but soon discovers that the garden next door is a wonderful place to play in, especially when a new family moves in next door!
I always recommend Moving Molly to parents who are looking for picture books to help children with the experience of moving house. As well as capturing the excitement of living somewhere new the story also acknowledges the insecurities evoked by the experience.
Lucy & Tom at Christmas: Lucy and Tom’s Christmas celebrations start with them stirring the Christmas pudding. Preparations continue with writing to Father Christmas, present wrapping and decorating the tree. Lucy and Tom wake up early for a traditional English Christmas Day with a church service, followed by lunch and games by the fire.
Lucy & Tom at Christmas mirrors my childhood Christmases and I love the way that Shirley Hughes acknowledges that all the festive excitement can also be a bit much for children and make them grumpy and cross as well! I love the colour scheme on the new cover, red and gold decorations on Christmas trees are my favourite!
Dixie O’Day: Dixie and Percy’s adventures are a collaboration with Shirley’s daughter Clara Vulliamy who is the illustrator of these fast paced adventures with their two doggy heroes. The highly illustrated early chapter books bridge the reading gap for children who are moving from picture books to chapter books. Each has seven chapters, one for every night of the week, but they are so full of action that we can never read just one at a time and we love the maps that are included in each story.
Dixie and Percy’s adventures include a colourful cast of characters including Dixe’s rich and rather conceited neighbour Lou Ella. Our favourite story is Dixie O’Day and the Haunted House, while camping on a stormy night Dixie and Percy get into difficulties so seek shelter in an old house where they are welcomed by a mysteriously, friendly old lady. This is a thrilling spooky story for adults as well as children, it’s a perfect read for Halloween!
My Naughty Little Sister: My Naughty Little Sister was written by Dorothy Edwards and illustrated by Shirley Hughes. The stories were inspired by Dorothy’s little sister, Phyllis and My Naughty Little Sister’s adventures make us laugh. They are also quite shocking, especially when My Naughty Little Sister bites Father Christmas, eats all the trifle at Bad Harry’s birthday party and eats the workman’s sandwiches. However, she is also very cute when she goes to school and we did sympathise with her when she had measles!
My childhood version of My Naughty Little Sister has this cover. My mum bought my copy and read it to me when I was five and went into hospital to have my adenoids out, it’s one of my earliest memories of having stories read to me! The My Naughty Little Sister CD is the one that my daughter often chooses to listen to when she’s not well. Shirley’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to My Naughty Little Sister’s adventures, we particularly love the illustrations of her looking cross!!
Thank you Shirley Hughes for creating stories that have left me and so many readers with so many wonderful childhood memories. Have a wonderful, wonderful birthday!
Do you have a favourite Shirley Hughes’ book or illustration? We’d love to hear your favourites in the comments.