I love Shirley Hughes books and I love reading them to my children. For me their appeal is that they are so realistic. The families are not picture-perfect like celebrity families we are bombarded with. The characters are human, fragile, emotional. The parents look harassed. Their houses get messy. The children lose toys and the pain of the loss is tangible – I still struggle to read Dogger. But they have wonderful simple fun – they go to the beach, they make shops in the garden, they make special toys from stones. Shirley Hughes books for me are parenting manuals; I aspire to the sort of family life she depicts.
Therefore, it was wonderful to hear her interviewed on Woman’s Hour today. She described how, using a sketch book, she observes “you get an eye for how children stand when they are anxious, how they run”. This is how her drawings become so realistic.
She said that in her childhood she did a lot of “mooning around”. Is there not enough of that now? the interviewer asked. Shirley Hughes said, very wisely “there’s never a golden age of childhood, there’s always something”, but she did comment that perhaps we need to slow down a bit, to enjoy the simple pleasure of sitting with a child and turning the pages of a book at their pace.
We often read Shirley Hughes books at our evening story time. The simple tales of everyday life draw all of us in. I relax as I become absorbed in the events of another family. Shirley Hughes is one of my heroes. Thank you Shirley for creating some very “real” fictional families who help us remember that, often, the simple things really do bring the most happiness.