Shirley Hughes


These books were well-loved by all of my children. Although I don't think the boys care about them any more my daughter is unwilling to let them go. I am glad because I don't want to part with them either.
How many times have I read these stories to my children I wonder?
Shirley Hughes was born in 1927. She began illustrating children's books in the 1950s, books like the My Naughty Little Sister stories by Dorothy Edwards and Something To Do which I mention in this post.
In 1960 she illustrated her own story, Lucy and Tom's Day. It was to be the first of many books written for and about small children. 


Shirley Hughes' stories are firmly rooted in reality. They deal with the everyday happenings of a small child's life. New wellies, trips to the seaside, birthday parties, baby sitters, losing a beloved toy, helping mummy in the kitchen, chatting to neighbours, playing with siblings, going to the park.


Although a lot of Shirley Hughes' books were written in the 60s and 70s when I was a small child I don't remember reading them or having them read to me. I first discovered them when I was teaching some twenty years ago.


What struck me most about them was that the world she illustrated was my childhood. The setting of these stories is not the rural idyll of Milly Molly Mandy but a city, or suburb exactly like the area in which I grew up. The houses her small characters inhabit are Victorian terraced houses just like ours was. The parks and schools, the high street shops were the same as the ones I visited. Our milkman actually looked like the milkman in Alfie Gets in First (the chap with the beard).


The interiors of the houses had the same cosy, friendly, mis-matched furnishings as our house had. 


My mum hung washing on a line in a back garden very similar to this one.


This could be the road my parents live in.


My birthday parties were not outside, not in December, but sandwiches, sausages on sticks and cake were a feature of every one. (My mother-in-law had to abandon sausages on sticks after one memorable party she gave for my husband. Apparently his little friends took the cocktail sticks from the sausages, inserted them into the drinking straws and used them as blow guns).


The big jug of autumn berries and seedheads  in this picture reminds me so much of the kind of arrangements my mum used to make. 


Shirley Hughes last published a book in 2009. Even her most recent books have a nostalgic but somehow timeless quality. A bibliography of her work can be found here.
If you have pre-school children and haven't discovered Shirley Hughes yet then I urge you to try her out.

Comments

  1. Hi Sue , love these books ...especially Alfie gets in first . The illustrations are gorgeous with all their detail and the stories are so enjoyable to read out loud ...the long list of people that ends with "and Mrs McNally and Mrs McNally's Maureen " is just so satisfying to say :0)
    Jacquie x

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  2. I love Shirley Hughes books - we had so many when the boys were small (still have them in the attic for when I'm a grannie).

    Big son insisted on having yellow wellies after we read Alfies Feet - they took some finding in the times before the internet!!

    Splish, splash, splosh ;)

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  3. I've kept every one of her books and I'll never let them go. A lovely walk through Sue.

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  4. *squeal* I was raised on Shirley Hughes books! Dogger, Alfie, Out and About.... never part with them, my parents still have all mine and I hope to read them to my children one day. :)

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  5. I love Shirly Hughes too - I remember from my childhood as we used to read them at school or I would take them out as library books, and now we have lots of them in school just to read at story time or whatever.

    I love all kinds of books, old and new, but these do have a certain charm!

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  6. She's a favourite of mine too, not from reading them during my own childhood but to my own children - charity shops are a good source for new-to-us titles. As you say looking at the illustrations does meake me feel somewhat nostalgic.

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  7. Her books have featured and have been loved in our house, I can't part with them xox

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  8. Thanks for introducing me to her!
    Fantastic illustrations!I agree, that they have a nostalgic feeling but they also very real-life!
    And the language level could easily suit my learners, as most authentic fairy tales are difficult for them(the English teacher in me is talking now...I know, what can you do?).
    I can even imagine myself absorbed in them!

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  9. We are big fans here at BeanTowers. I don't know how many times I have read Dogger, both to my Smalls and when I was teaching but it still never fails to give me goosebumps. Which one is your fave?
    Ax

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  10. aah nothing like a bit of alfie at bedtime x

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  11. Oh, they are just the perfect books for an day like today. They always make me think of blustery, rainy, dark afternoons. My children have loved them, particularly no2, who is now 9, and still has a his own little pile of comfort reading Shirley Hughes stories.

    Don't you think there's something similar in Judith Kerr's illustrations? I love The Tiger Who Came to Tea for the same reason.

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  12. Greetings from Canada. Thank you so much for the blast from the past. I loved those, but I'd forgotten all about them. I discovered them at the library when my children were little. I've been following your blog for a short time now and loving it, but I'm not much of a commenter. But I had to comment on this post as it brought back such warm memories. Thanks again.

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  13. Rachael I love The Tiger Who Came to Tea too. The kitchen in it has cupboards like the ones we had at home. Gosh I used to love reading it to my kids, I always made the tiger sound like Shere Kahn in the Jungle Book.

    Magic Bean, I think my favourite is Alfie Gets in First. It is such a simple story and so cleverly illustrated with Alfie on one page inside the house and mum, Annie-Rose and all the helpers on the other. I love how the words describe what is going on outside while the illustrations show what Alfie is up to inside.

    Out and About is a favourite too for the seasonal illustrations and the simple rhymes. My husband used to enjoy reading that one to the children.

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  14. Thank you so much for this post Sue. I love Shirley Hughes' books and each one of my children has shared my love. When I lived in New Zealand I used to get very homesick and I would get out Shirley Hughes to look at because to me she was quintessentially English. Her homes as you say were so familiar to me and EXACTLY the kind of home I wanted to provide for my own children. A few years ago now I went to see her at the Cheltenham Book Festival. She drew Alfie in a big flip chart - when she turned to the side his profile was exactly the same as hers! Loved that.

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  15. Yes yes yes! I loved these books when I was small. As I looked at the picture of the carol singers I could SMELL my mum's mince pies! I love these pictures - and you are right, the pictures embody my early childhood in County Durham (and I am 28). Thank you for reminding me of these wonderful books now I have my first child on the way!
    Fran

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  16. Never mind the girls, I love these books myself! They are fantastic illustrations and stories - I admit to a reluctance to pass these on as well - I may have to say that I am saving them for any potential grandchildren!!

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  17. Sheer nostalgia. Just lovely. I didn't discover them until my son was born, but we loved Alfie. Maybe one day I will get to read them all over again. To my grandchildren!

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  18. My children love these books. My parents keep a large selection at their house.Despite being a fan of farting monsters and big trucks, my son still loves staying at Grannies as he gets to hear all about Alfie. Ax

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  19. Hi Sue, I've not come across these books before, but what fantastic illustrations! Nice to see they've prompted so many happy memories from other bloggers too; both the post and the comments were lovely to read.
    Dan
    -x-

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  20. This brought back so many memories. My boys (all now grown up) loved her books and I know I still have them somewhere. I couldn't part with them... such beautiful stories and illustrations. Alfie was our favourite.

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  21. I found a pristine 'Collected' Shirley Hughes in a charity shop for £5. Eventually I gave it to my grandchildren. They already had some paperbacks, but love the 'big book'

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  22. my children used to love these books too, they really studied the pictures as i would read and this would start up a whole new conversation. I loved reading them to them too
    Ahhh i miss them being little now!
    j x

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  23. I love all her books especially bonting. The story of alfies pebble at the beach. All three of my kids loved them. They would look at the pictures for hours. I would never part with them.

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  24. Have you seen her autobiography, which is lovely?

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  25. Mary, do you mean A Life Drawing? Yes I have read it, a lovely book, packed with her drawings.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Drawing-Autobiography-Shirley-Hughes/dp/0370326059/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306175196&sr=1-1

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  26. I read books that belonged to my Mum and I still have them now, after sharing them with my own children. I hope they will share them with their own children - books are treasures and I love, love, love picture books that are so beautifully illustrated that I still sit and peruse them even now LOL

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  27. Oh, thank you so much for this post. My children loved Lucy and Tom, Alfie and Annie Rose et al and like you I have kept them all. These lovely illustrations really lightened my mood after a stressful day. What a treat.

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  28. My children used to love those books - the pictures are so familiar to me!

    Pomona x

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  29. Hi Sue I spotted your post on Teresa's blog list and when I saw "Shirley Hughes" I just had to take a peep. My Mum (long retired) was a primary school teacher and always read these books aloud to her children. My own children were also introduced to them by her and they were real favourtes, especially Dogger. We too still have them, they have such a fond place in my heart. I hope your post introduced them to a new audience, such wonderful stories and illustrations.
    Thanks for showing them,
    PS I still have my own Milly Molly Mandy books too ;0)
    Jane x

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  30. Hello Sue, what a lovely post.
    My son, Alfie (named after his great grandfather), loves Shirley Hughes' books, particularly naming all the minute details in her illustrations. I'm so glad, as I bought Alfie's Feet as his first book.
    Just to say I love your blog, it's always a good read. Thanks.

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  31. We love Shirley Hughes books here. Particulary the nursery collection: Two shoes, new shoes/ bright shiny blue shoes... Etc. I was so upset to find they were no longer published, and had to make up the set for my little girl, from a selection of second hand sites. They are being kept for Grand Children! Lovely post.

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  32. My son loved Dogger- in fact he had a stuffed toy that closely resembled Dogger too.
    I've kept all the favourite books. Perhaps I'll need them one day for grandchildren.
    Cheers
    Helsie

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  33. I love those books too.They bring back such a flood of nostalgic feelings. I particularly like the illustrations that she did for the 'My Naughty Little Sister' series by Dorothy Edwards. My daughter and I enjoy exploring the Shirley Hughes collected works book.
    I wonder if anyone remembers 'The Family From One End Street?' series by Eve Garnett -they also have lovely, cosy illustrations.

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  34. Oh what memories, thank you. I had no idea she was a contemporary of my mum, I never had the books either but we wore them out with my children. Loved them, still have them.

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  35. Anonymous10:52 am BST

    Hi Sue, a lovely surprise on your blog today ... no flowers or chocolate cake, but perhaps something even more delightful. I read many of these books to my boys when they were little and loved the detail, the love, the "smallness" of them. Thanks for the revisit!

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  36. My two older kids loved these but unfortunately my younger (8yr old) would rather read books about toilets etc! In case you were interested there is a lovely book about Shirley Hughes and her life called'A Life Drawing' recollections of an illustrator. pub by Bodley Head. It's a beautiful book.

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  37. Sorry, someone else already mentioned the autobiograpy. I am an idiot!

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  38. Hello Sue,
    I don't remember these books,and even though my son is 21 this year i just don't recall them.Have seen other blogs mention them,and even though i'm 50(ooh err)this year i'm a sucker for books like these and adore the art work in them(probably because i can't draw for toffee)!! will keep my eyes open for them
    As ever great post
    Thank You for sharing
    Sue xx

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  39. The very much beloved books of Shirley Hughes have been a integral part of my son's bedtime storytime. Even now at 12, he will occasionally get out a favourite for me to read to him for 'old times sake'! He, too, wants to keep them for his kids so we've stashed them away.

    'Lucy and Tom's Christmas' is ever so sweet in their traditional Christmas. The Trotter Street Tales were another favourite. All of her illustrations are adorable.

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  40. Ella's Big Chance is my favourite, a realistic, grown-up take on the Cinderella story - I still read it to my children at 10 and 6.

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  41. Debs in the Garden4:48 pm BST

    Ahh love these books, have still got several and my kids are in their twenties...

    We also have a pet pebble called Bonting - one of our dogs adopted it on a beach walk years ago.

    Think I may have to pop to Amazon to have a peek at her autobiog.

    Thanks for the blog Sue, I really enjoy it.

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  42. Pati from London5:44 pm BST

    Hello Sue, I had never heard of Shirley Hughes...., as I grew up in Spain I never got to know her books. They look delightful, though and I think my girls would love them as they also love Judith Kerr's books. Thanks for sharing! One always learns something new! Have a lovely day, Pati x

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  43. My favourite children's author too. x

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  44. You've taken me on a delightful trip down memory lane. Happy happy days!

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  45. hi sue,my very first comment ever in blogland though i so enjoy reading your wonderful blog plus attic24 and curlew country!I couldn't not comment on the enjoyment that shirley hughes has brought to me and my daughter,now age 16,when she was a toddler.She still recalls how me,her soppy mum,would cry every time that alfieas reunited with dogger, thanks to the kindness of his sister bella!And the illustrations,especially in the lucy and tom storys are so evocative,i love when they go to the beach on the train and lucy has her rubber ring on all ready over her clothes, i have a photo of myself as a small child doing exactly the same!I could talk about shirley hughes all day,such a talented lady.I too have treasured all of our shirley hughes books and will never get rid of them and hopefully will one day be sharing them with a grandchild snuggled up on my lap.

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  46. I love Shirley Hughes! I read her books as a child and now I read them to my daughter. She loves the story "Proper Words" as I think it fits her world; our own "Annie Rose" on the cusp of talking. She wrote poems too which are lovely.

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  47. I love Dogger - well, all of them really, but especially Dogger. Everyone should read it! One of my all time favourite books. Thanks for the reminder, it was so lovely to see all these again.

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  48. Fatal - just had to go and buy the autobiography from Amazon - only two left in stock now!! Looks great, though and I am really looking forward to reading it, and the pictures, oh, the pictures!!

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  49. I had forgotten all about these books! Although I'm a child of the late 60's I too don't remember them but I came across them in the local library when my son was little(he's now 19).I used to check any second-hand stall or shop in the hope of finding some to keep but I soon came to the conclusion that no-one parts with them! I was re-acquainted when I started working in a primary school years later and I thought they were still smashing. Maybe I should start looking for them again - just so I'll prepared when grandkids finally arrive...honest.

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  50. Catherine5:22 pm BST

    I am over 50 and all my children are (just about) grown up, and I still love Shirley Hughes books! Wouldn't dream of getting rid of ours, though they are very battered...

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