my amazing mum

Shirley Hughes wins the Book Trust Lifetime Achievement Award



Read the announcement from Book Trust here

Read the lovely interview with Emily Drabble of The Guardian here

The word proud doesn’t begin to do it justice.

I’m also the last person who should be saying why she is such a worthy winner – I am far too close to be partial. I will just say this…

She knows, in life and in stories, which big things are important, and which little things say it best. Who else could tell you all you need to know about love and loss with only a pebble from the beach in a knitted bathing costume?

She knows about the huge sagas and magnificent triumphs that make up an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary child. Real families see themselves in her books: her characters become as familiar and loved as if they were the readers’ siblings.
Shirley Hughes isn’t just my family, she IS family.

Seeing the beautiful Alfie artwork currently on her drawing board, and the new Dixie stories landing on mine, AND hearing about the new novel taking shape at the kitchen table, isn’t it extraordinary to think that, at 87, her best work may still be ahead of her?

Ed, Tom and I would like to send a thousand thank you’s to Clare Hall Craggs, Andrea MacDonald and everyone at Book Trust for supporting Mum in receiving, preparing for and most of all enjoying this great honour and the event tomorrow.

I have been bowled over by the response online about this news. Mum doesn’t really know just how much she means to people, which is part of her charm but on a day like today maybe a little bit of a shame too.
If you would like to send her your congratulations, on twitter or even better in the comments below, it would give me enormous pleasure to pass it on to her.

Thank you.




  1. Harriet Muncaster

    I would like to say congratulations!!! My siblings and I used to love it when our mum read Shirley Hughes books to us when we were little. We especially loved, Dogger, Lucy and Tom and my Naughty Little Sister. And you’ve just reminded me of the one about the pebble too! Was it called Bonting?! I remember it made me want to have my own special pebble in a bathing costume too!

  2. Alexis

    Dear Clara Vulliamy and Shirley Hughes,

    Around 30 years ago my Mum read Dogger to me, I fell in love with this book, and it played a huge role in my memories as a child and my love of books, then and now. The gorgeous illustrations, that beautiful loved little dog, and the love and kindness shown from one sister to her brother, which always felt reflective of my relationship with my brother. All of these things touched me.

    20 years later I started teaching and rediscovered my love of this book, and 2 years on from that I started working in a Children’s library in Sheffield.

    Shirley Hughes came into that library for an adult event, but popped down to the children’s library to see our section and say hello. I was gutted that I had forgotten to bring my own much loved copy of Dogger with me to be signed.

    That was no problem, Shirley kindly told me that she would go upstairs, sign a book plate for me and send it down later. To be honest, meeting this wonderful lady who played such a big part in my childhood love of books was enough, but, despite the busy event, she kept her word and sent down a book plate for me, which is now on the front of my beautiful copy of Dogger.

    10 years on, still working at the same library, I see children’s love of Shirley Hughes’ timeless books every single day and I love the fact that I can share in that passion with them (I’m not going to lie, I always steer them towards Dogger!!).

    Congratulations Shirley on this amazing achievement, but it’s no less than you deserve. Thank you!


  3. Polly

    Congratulations Shirley!

    My first reaction, on hearing you were to receive this award, was absolute blooming OUTRAGE that you had not received it already. This has been *slightly* mollified today by learning that that’s because it is a NEW award that has never been presented before. I *suppose* that makes it okay. Personally, I think nothing less than a crown deserved.
    Few stories have given me such delight to read as a parent as yours. Lucy and Tom, Katie and her brother, Dave and brave Bella, Alfie and Annie Rose and (my favourite) Bernard have made all of us laugh and worry and sigh with satisfied relief and just occasionally made *some* of us become rather wobbly voiced and damp eyed: “You’re not CRYING are you Mum??!”…
    Thank goodness Alfie, unlike my own two, will never grow up. Because when they are great hulking hairy things off on adventures, I’ll always be able to find a little remembrance of these swiftly passing days and their 4 year old shadows in picking up one of your marvellous, beautifully observed, subtle, wise books. THEN I’ll be able to sob happily without restraint.
    You are, that often used but never more meaningfully applied word- an inspiration.
    Thank you x

  4. Isabel Coughlin

    Fantastic news and well deserved. Your Mum has been a part of our family since my daughter Lucy (named after her Great Grandma) was born in 1990′ followed by Tom (named after his Great Grandpa) two years later. Fancy that, a whole set of books just for them! I put a photo of them aged 4 and 2 on Twitter, it’s a bit grainy… but such happy days reading wonderful stories and seeing all the details in the pictures. Something new to spot each time… Now I have a Grand-daughter and we are going to share all those precious books with a whole new generation. Hooray, I can’t wait! HUGE congratulations from me, Lucy & Tom!

  5. Anne Thompson

    This is such a very lovely post, Clara.
    You are so right about family. Your lovely Mum and her wise and very loving stories are part of my family. They soothed my sons and they soothed me too. As a newish mum there was something comforting about the way in which everyday problems, (perhaps trivial to others, but hugely important to little ones and anxious parents) were portrayed and then resolved with love, care and understanding. Alfie is like so many little boys and captured perfectly the muddles that small children get themselves into. Dogger was introduced to my older son aged three at playgroup and I have loved it ever since. Twenty six years later when I read it to children in the school library it has the same impact.
    Please pass on my congratulations to your very special mum on this wonderful award which she so very much deserves. Please also thank her for creating some of my most treasured memories of our own family life. When I am feeling braver I will get the recording of me reading Lucy & Tom’s Christmas to my sons on Christmas Eve all those years ago. There will be tears, but happy ones.
    I hope you both have a fabulous day tomorrow.

    Anne x

  6. Anne Booth

    I know I have said it before, but I do really think that your mum’s books made me really really want my own family, and then, when I was a mum, were a sort of parenting manual – reading them helped me as I tried to see things from my children’s perspective – her work is so tender and utterly empathetic from the child’s point of view – she understands the pain of a lost toy or the bliss of a den or the bravery of putting down a comfort blanket and taking another child’s hand. She knows the terror for child and parent when a door slams and they are on either side – and she is such a brilliant picture book writer and artist because she knows how to convert that understanding into beautifully designed and illustrated stories which are just fantastic to share. Then, she also illustrated other people’s stories brilliantly – and now – utterly inspiringly – in her 80s – is writing acclaimed novels too! What a proud tradition your family have in making books which are a delight to share! Your mum deserves every award the world of children’s books have to offer – and in fact, if she was PM I could rest securely at night, knowing any country directed by her would be kind, fun, and lovely to be in! Hooray for Shirley Hughes and her lovely family and have a wonderful celebration! xxx

  7. Rachael Burnett

    When I think of my childhood, which was always steeped in books, I think of your mum’s illustrations. In ‘Dogger’ (which was published in the year I was born) and in the fantastic line drawings in the ‘Naughty Little Sister’ series, I found warmth and a sense of familiarity that meant I engaged with the characters far more than in any other books.

    Please say a massive congratulations to your mum and pass on my sincere thanks for all the beautiful stories and pictures. x

  8. Virginia Moffatt

    Dear Shirley,

    Congratulations on a wonderful achievement. It was Anne Booth who brought you to my attention, raving about your books when she was doing her MA. Then we had children and we discovered you for ourselves. The vivid pictures, that perfectly capture childhood; the gentle loving stories; the marvellous characters. Alfie kept us entertained on many a long journey. My eldest, Beth, even had a stone in box because of one of your stories. Oh the drama when we lost it, the joy when it was found. And Jonathan’s favourite cuddly toy was Dogger, he still loves it even though he is 12!. Beth, Claire and I were so lucky to come and see you and your children speak in Oxford a while back, and I was delighted to discover that you illustrated My Naughty Little Sister. I loved those books as a child and still remember the pictures. I was was a revelation to realise I had been a fan all my life without realising! The signed complete works we have from that afternoon has pride of place in our house. I love to look through it from time to time (I find your Autumn pictures particularly captivating, they take me right back to my childhood, I can see the leaves, smell the smoke, feel the wind). And it is ready for the next generation (if we are so lucky). So thank you for the pleasure you have given us. Can’t think of a worthier first winner for this award. Have a happy, happy day today. Lots of love Virginia Moffatt, Chris, Beth, Claire and Jonathan Cole.

  9. Eve Wilson

    Congratulations to your mum Clara. Her books were read to me growing up and now I adore reading them to my two children. George is 7 and Grace 4 and they too adore her stories not least because of the beautiful illustrations that accompany them. Her observations and tales of daily life that we can all relate to remain a source of much enjoyment and pleasure for us all. Congratulations Shirley!

  10. Ann Aitken

    Many congratulations to your Mum, it is a well-deserved award. I grew up looking at her amazing illustrations and reading her wonderful books and it helped to inspire a lifelong love of reading. When I had my own children I was thrilled to be able to re-vist these wonderful books and share them with all of my children, who also loved them. As an adult I think I appreciate even more the true beauty of her words and illustrations that are truly inspirational for my children. Please say a huge thank you from us!

  11. Deborah Fielden

    As I read the news that you had been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award yesterday morning, a smile crept slowly across my face and tears started to well as I started reading all the reactions and comments from people far and wide, all of whom knew and appreciated the contribution that you have made to the world of books – and to the lives of so many little children and their families.

    When I was a child, I only knew your work as an illustrator as my Mum read me countless Naughty Little Sister stories over and over. For my own children, nephews and nieces, Alfie, Annie Rose, Molly, Dave, Bernard, Bonting and so many other characters have been a central party of their booky childhoods. Your stories have inspired, intrigued, amused, soothed, pacified, reassured and entertained. I cannot WAIT to share them with the next generation.

    Many many congratulations on your award – I hope that you and your family enjoy a really special day today.

    You are a national treasure.

  12. Amanda Mitchison

    Reading your mother’s books, particularly ‘Dogger,’ was one of the greatest joys of having young children. And I still love those drawings of scruffy, scrumpled, kitchen-table sort of family life. They rang so very true.
    My sister has hanging on her wall an exquisite Shirley Hughes drawing of a mother and child. So simply and so touching and so beautifully executed.

  13. Terence Blacker

    Thank you, Clara, for a touching tribute to your brilliant mother, and congratulations to Shirley on her award. No one deserves it more – not only for the wit and warmth of her work and the pleasure she has brouht to millions of people down the years, but for the quiet steeliness and professionalism which has made her career an inspiration to authors and illustrators everywhere.

  14. Elli Woollard

    Once upon a bedtime, a tiny girl sat in a cot. She was only a few months old, too young to really understand the stories her mother was reading to her big sister. But she still listened. And most of all, she looked. She looked at the pictures of children, their expressions perfectly captured. She looked at their scowls, their smiles. She looked at how they ran and played. These children in books were real.
    And then she grew into the stories. Stories of children just like her, written by an author who understand perfectly that for a small child, the smallest incident can become an adventure. Getting shut inside, going to the seaside, going to school. This was an author who understood what was important in a child’s life.
    Then as she got older still, she realised that the illustrations in all her favourite books were by the same person. ‘My Naughty Little Sister’, ‘The Bell Family’, ‘Mary Kate and the School Bus’. Any book with illustrations by Shirley Hughes was going to be a good one. “I went to the same school as Shirley Hughes’, the girl’s mother told her. And this connection made the little girl feel very proud.
    Later still, shamefully late, when the little girl was grown up and with a family of her own, she discovered Dogger, and fell in love all over again, trying unsuccessfully to read it to her own children without a wobble in her voice. And when one day one of her sons managed to shut himself inside, he knew exactly what to do. ‘Just like Alfie!’ he said proudly.
    Once upon a bedtime, a tiny girl listened to her mother reading her stories, and looked at the wonderful richness of Shirley Hughes’ illustrations. Thank you Shirley, for making me the writer (and the person) that I am.

  15. Wendy Mallas

    Many congratulations, Shirley. It’s so deserved. I’m just surprised it took so long to receive this. You have made a difference to many lives, young and old. Well done xx

  16. Joy Coury

    Huge congratulations to Shirley. Huge thanks for the lovely moments sharing her books with my children and now with grandchildren too. There cannot be a family in the land who does not immediately recognise her beautiful pictures and loved sharing her stories and poems. Frankly it is a disgrace that she is not already a Dame. What an oversight but nobody could deserve this Booktrust inaugural award more or accept it with more humility and graciousness.

  17. Gemma M

    Dear Shirley,
    Congratulations on your award it is thoroughly deserved. Your books are part of my childhood and i have very fond memories of continually borrowing Dogger & Alfie gets in first from the library. I think what i loved most as a child was the illustrations and the detail and realness of them. I got lost in the pictures and loved feeling part of it. As a child I was always drawing and enjoyed the creative process and to this day it brings me so much joy to draw as it did then.
    I did not have a loving family unit around me so my memories of childhood are not what I like to dwell on but the one thing i am happy to remember is the beautiful loving family life found in your books and the comfort and happiness it gave me. As an adult & now mother of 2 it is wonderful to introduce my children to your work and I’m still inspired to this day to be an illustrator thanks to you and Janet Ahllberg. Best wishes , Gemma x

  18. James Mayhew

    I am so moved to read this heartfelt and beautiful celebration of a mother, wife, writer and artist. Her words and pictures are ingrained in generations of families, they are part of the folk-lore, the tapestry of life. Her words and observations have filled our lives as children and as parents of children. I think, if I may be so bold, we all feel we know Shirley a little bit. It feels like she knows us as well. She has captured our world, cherished our foibles and fears and celebrated our loves and joys so astutely, we feel part of one big picture-book family. She is the greatest, and the most beloved. The matriarch of picture-books! With very much love and congratulations,
    James xxx

  19. Nicolette Jones

    I said it to Shirley in person, but putting it on record here that I could not be more delighted about this. There had to be such an honour, because Shirley exists. Hooray for her skilled draughtsmanship and for her loving observation and representation of children’s lives. And for stressing the importance of learning to look.

  20. Julie Bull

    I’m sorry I’m a bit late in adding my congratulations to all these well-deserved accolades. I was so pleased to read the news of the award just now – there is absolutely no one else who is so deserving of such an honour.
    I would like to thank Shirley Hughes personally for bringing such pleasure to so many, particularly to my two daughters when they were growing up, and to me.
    My little grandson has just had his first birthday but already loves your baby board books. I am looking forward so much to introducing him to the rest of your wonderful work as he grows!
    Thank you so much.

  21. Mammasaurus

    This is wonderful and much deserved news – I was welling up reading your post and then I read the comments and they set me off again!

    I’m not a wordy person so I can’t put this very eloquently, but much love to both you and your mum Clara. Isn’t it beautiful how books create such strong memories that they provoke dreams in children and stir up emotions in adults alike x

  22. Gwen Harrison

    Your books always bring back happy memories of my children’s childhood , dogger was so loved by them both. Thank you for being a special part of our families cherished memories xx

  23. Jo Goldsworthy

    A very long time ago I had the pleasure of being your editor, Shirley, inheriting you from Livia Gollancz when I took over from her as Gollancz children’s editor and looked after your Lucy and Tom books (the first of these being the first picture book Goillancz published). You needed no editing, of course, and in any case I was a real beginner in the field and wouldn’t have dared to make any editorial suggestions. This award is long overdue, as so many have said, and very richly deserved.

    Livia, who I spoke to today, is now in her 90s but as energetic and interested in life as ever. She asks me to say that she is ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED to hear about the award. She remembers you with great affection. We both send our love to you.

    Jo Goldsworthy

  24. Alice McAllister

    Congratulations on the Lifetime Achievement Award, it really could not have gone to a more worthy winner. It is hard to describe how much pleasure your books and illustrations have brought to me and my family over the years. I loved My Naughty Little Sister when I was small, and Sally’s Secret was another favourite. When my children were born we took great delight in reading (over and over again) every book by Shirley Hughes that we could get our hands on. We love Dogger so much, and everything Alfie (Bonting is wonderful), plus all the others, the period detail in The Christmas Eve Ghost, the naughty little brother in The Trouble with Jack, the Tales of Trotter Street… I could go on and on. When my children were beginning to talk they loved finishing the sentences in Bathwater’s… HOT, seawater’s COLD, you have contributed hugely to their love of language and illustration. We have been lucky enough to meet you several times at the Illustration Cupboard which has been an amazing privilege, we have loved thanking you in person for everything you have done but I am very pleased to be able to do it again here too. Many congratulations once again, Alice x
    PS I also realised, long ago, that you could sing the spring time poem in ‘Out and About’ to the tune of ‘Favourite Things’ from the Sound of Music. ‘Trees full of blossom like pink and white snow…’ It really works 🙂



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