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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Shirley Hughes: now and then

One thing I love about Shirley Hughes' books is the way she captures the beautiful messiness of childhood; the environment children inhabit and the way they experience the world. She captures ice cream on faces, baby sisters making messes, children stepping up to help their parents and the beautifully imaginative play children engage in when left to their own devices.  Now that I am a parent, I feel she has really captured the essence of  parents and caregivers as well. These people look after small children lovingly but occasionally just want a bit of p and q for five minutes, but when they take it, it is inevitability interrupted in some way or the other. In 'Helpers', George, an older teen, kindly looks after three children while their mum is out for the day. After several hours of babysitting, he sits down and reads his magazine. That is, until the kids start climbing all over him and he gives up and takes them down to the shops for ice cream. Sound familiar, anyone? 'The Big Alfie and Annie Rose storybook', opens with Alfie and Annie Rose climbing down the stairs to join dad (who had been enjoying reading the paper uninterrupted) and eat breakfast with him. They proceed to do what small children do best: make mess and do it loudly. Dad manages (somehow!) to persevere and is still reading the paper at the end of the story.

Alfie and Annie Rose prepare to descend on poor old Dad, who is enjoying reading the newspaper.

As a child, I loved the detailed illustrations. There was always something to look at and I loved the sense of warmth and cosiness conveyed in the illustrations.  These illustrations also captured familiar scenes of childhood: going to fairs, walking down to the dairy to buy lollies and ice cream, playing on the swings at the park and being tucked up in bed with a menagerie of stuffed toys among others. It was lovely. Now my son (aged 2 1/2) is enjoying Hughes' books. His favourites are the ones about Alfie and Annie Rose When he encountered his first  Alfie story he immediately related to the characters, as he, like Alfie has a baby sister.

Over the course of the last two or so years, I have become very curious about children's book authors. I am the type of person who becomes excited when I find out that someone famous that I admire is still alive (not quite sure why? The remote possibility that I might somehow meet them? And on a side note, I will never forget how devastated my year 9 English class- and this was at a boys' school- found out that Roald Dahl was dead. It was good practice I suppose for when I have to break the news about Santa eventually to my two). I was very excited to find out that Shirley Hughes is indeed, still alive. Here are some links to articles and interviews with her, if you are interested.  and

My next post will be a recipe for another one of my standbys- Buckwheat Banana Berry Muffins. See you then. Yum! x


  1. I loved the one where Alfie locked his Mum and Annie Rose outside the house. It seemed very real.

    1. Yes, I totally agree. I think Shirley Hughes manages to capture moments like that amazingly well. It reminds of when one of my sisters locked herself in the toilet at my Uncle's house (aged 2) and by the time the locksmith arrived to get her out, she managed to unlock the door again.