Books by Shirley Hughes

RUBY IN THE RUINS by Shirley Hughes
Released: May 8, 2018

"A sweet celebration of familial love. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Young Ruby and her mother have survived the London Blitz together; now Ruby must adjust to the return of her father. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 14, 2017

"A fine war novel about living life despite trying circumstances. (Historical fiction. 9-14)"
Schoolgirl Joan Armitage is trying to adjust to life in her suburb near Liverpool in 1940, when everyone tries to carry on a normal life despite nightly air raids on the Liverpool docks by the Luftwaffe. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 25, 2015

"Smooth writing, appealing pictures, and (mostly) mild action create a pleasant enough package, but it's still likely to be a bit twee for some readers. (map, authors' note, quiz, first chapter of Digby O'Day Up, Up, and Away) (Fiction. 6-8)"
Following series opener Digby O'Day in the Fast Lane (2014), Hughes and Vulliamy's canine duo are off on another adventure, this time featuring a classy seaside hotel, a secret passage, a singing starlet with a taste for shiny jewels, and a pair of (feline) cat burglars. Read full book review >
DAISY SAVES THE DAY by Shirley Hughes
Released: June 9, 2015

"An impressive and delightful combination of visual and verbal storytelling evokes empathy and identification with the young heroine. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A girl's time "in service" in a London house offers young readers a glimpse of life below-stairs in 1911. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2014

"Digby and Percy are slated to return in additional adventures; whether they can win the contest to capture the interest of young readers and listeners remains to be seen. (Fiction. 6-8)"
Mother-daughter, author-illustrator team Hughes and Vulliamy collaborate for a low-key tale with an old-fashioned feel, decidedly British flavor and cheerful illustrations. Read full book review >
HERO ON A BICYCLE by Shirley Hughes
Released: April 23, 2013

"A superb historical thriller. (Historical fiction. 10-14)"
Thirteen-year-old Paolo Crivelli dreams of being a hero in Nazi-occupied Florence. Read full book review >
BOBBO GOES TO SCHOOL by Shirley Hughes
Released: March 12, 2013

"Another satisfying domestic drama from veteran author Hughes, this will please old fans and make new ones. (Picture book. 3 to 6)"
The plot is a familiar one: A young child and her favorite stuffed friend are separated and then joyously reunited. Read full book review >
DON'T WANT TO GO! by Shirley Hughes
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

Pleasantly predictable, this new offering from a veteran perfectly captures a typical childhood experience. Parents in particular will recognize young Lily's initial resistance to a change in her routine and chuckle at her eventual about face. With her stay-at-home mom sick in bed and her father heading to work, arrangements must be made for Lily's care. Her delaying tactics (first pouting, then losing her mittens) don't slow things much, and soon she finds herself hustled off to a friendly neighbor. She warms up slowly, but a cheerful baby and engaging puppy help the process considerably. By the time her father arrives at the end of the day, Lily's snuggled on the sofa with Ringo the dog and has changed her tune, if not her actual words. Plenty of repetition, including the title phrase, and lots of simple declarative sentences keep the relatively long text from dragging and enhance the charmingly child-like tone. Hughes's characteristic chubby-cheeked tots and slightly scratchy ink work further expand her tale's appeal. Familiar and comforting. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
ELLA’S BIG CHANCE by Shirley Hughes
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

Few illustrators could so stylishly dress up the tale of Cinderella with the dash and glitter of the roaring '20s as Hughes has done here with aplomb. Ella and her father, Mr. Cinders, are fashionable dressmakers who run a shop with the help of Buttons, a young man who serves as doorman and delivery boy. When Mr. Cinders remarries a woman with two daughters, happy days are over, as Madame Renee takes over the shop, Ruby and Pearl model the clothes, and all three treat Ella spitefully. The anticipated transformation takes place; a Mary Poppins-like Fairy Godmother taps her umbrella, turning cat into chauffeur and Buttons's delivery bike into limo. The ball scenes (inspired by Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies), sparkle and the surprise ending is a cunning twist. The book design is also stylish, with text in boxed rectangles with petite ancillary black-and-white drawings underscoring the drama. Hughes has added shimmer to her familiar pen-and-gouache style and elegantly fashioned a delightful, revisionist fairy tale. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
OLLY AND ME by Shirley Hughes
Released: May 1, 2004

In what amounts to a companion for Annie Rose Is My Little Sister (2003), the doyenne of cozy domesticity offers a warm slice-of-life portrait of another brother-sister combo, this time with the unnamed sister doting over her toddler brother. Hughes depicts the preschool-age narrator and her sibling as chubby-limbed, curly-topped children in familiar surroundings. Switching back and forth between prose and verse, she expertly varies the pace and language to capture each episode's feel: the pleasure of visiting a favorite sheep at a petting zoo; a lazy day "Splishing and Splashing" in the yard, "making mud, / Making rivers and dams / And swimming pools for ants," peering at pond fish "suddenly diving / with a brisk whisk of their tails," eagerly anticipating Mom's birthday party. The narrator may not sound her age, but her observations beg to be read aloud, and it's the mutual affection, the shared joy of ordinary family activities that will make the strongest impression on young listeners. (Picture book/poetry. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2003

With a mixture of pride, affection, and just an occasional saving flash of irritation, Alfie rattles on about his relationship with his adorable, adoring, younger sibling. Little Annie Rose loves games of peek-a-boo, sometimes prefers playing with her older brother's friends and toys over her own, still sleeps in a crib, and may not be quite up to helping Dad build sandcastles on the beach, but makes "quite good" sand pies. Viewed at child's-eye level, the naturalistically painted pair is seen at home and away, alone and with friends, happily absorbed in living their lives. Though Annie Rose has a generally sunny disposition, when she does fall into a bad mood, "I'm the only person who can cheer her up," Alfie avers, "because she's my little sister, and I'm her big brother, and we'll go on being that forever . . . even until we're grown up." Conveying a warm feeling of domestic harmony, and modeling an ideal but not unrealistic closeness, this will please fans of Frieda Wishinsky's Oonga Boonga (reissued 1998, with illus by Carol Thompson), Marc Brown's tales of Arthur and D.W., and the like. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
ALFIE'S 1-2-3 by Shirley Hughes
Released: March 31, 2000

Alfie and his little sister Annie Rose are back, this time introducing the numbers one through ten in a playful approach to counting. Hughes (The Lion and the Unicorn. 1999, etc.) uses familiar topics, such as birthday parties and visits to Grandma's, to capture the reader's attention while incorporating the numbers into an engaging series of vignettes about Alfie, Annie Rose and their friends and family. Prominently placed in the corner of the page is the featured number. Next to each numeral is the corresponding number of dots, giving readers a visual reference to reinforce the concept. Naturally Alfie leaves his individual stamp on the tale as he and readers count everything from inquisitive pigs and birthday balloons to cows munching in a field. In a novel approach, Hughes also provides more than one example for each number along with some simple addition. "Eight people walking to work up Alfie's street. Are the same number coming home again? If you add one little dog, that makes nine." Her winning illustrations feature cherubic children doing what comes naturally: playing in the park, snuggling up with friends, etc. The warmly drawn pictures, brimming with detail, beckon to readers, encouraging them to explore their world. Fans of Alfie will savor this newest adventure while the uninitiated will quickly discover why this series has such enduring popularity with children and adults alike. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1999

From Hughes (Enchantment in the Garden, 1997, etc.), a WWII story with big ambitions—many of them realized'set out in the pages of an unusually long picture book. Lenny Levi lives in London with his mother during the Blitz, cherishing the letters from his father at the front, and the medal of the lion and the unicorn his father gave him. When Lenny is evacuated to the country, he finds himself at a huge old manor with three little girls, the lady of the house, and a few servants. He is lonely, teased at school and at home for not eating bacon and for bedwetting, but makes a friend of the young man with one leg he meets in the secret garden on the estate. The garden, thick with roses, also holds a beautiful statue of a unicorn like the one on his medal. As Lenny's loneliness and fear spiral out of control, a night vision of the unicorn brings him back; his mother comes to take them both to his aunt in Wales, where his father will join them. The storyline, while straightforward, hints at difficult subjects—religious differences, amputees, separation, family disruptions, the terror of bombing, and more—which are then given only cursory treatment. The pictures are splendid: luminous, full-bodied watercolors that capture the horror of London burning, the glory of the countryside, and mists of dreams. It may be difficult for this to find its audience, but children too young for Michelle Magorian's Good Night, Mr. Tom (1986) might be captured. (Picture book. 8-10) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1998

Alfie (The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook, 1992, etc.) is back, and this time he wants to cheer up his neighbor, Bob MacNally, whose old gray cat, Smoky, has died. Bob's birthday is coming up, but his daughter Maureen says he's so down he doesn't want any presents, not even cards. It's Alfie's idea to make a surprise party for him. A flurry of shopping and cake-baking ensues, but the best surprise is Maureen's present—a kitten. She entrusts it to Alfie's care for the night before the party, and he is proud to play such an important role. This warm-hearted slice of real life is as good as any of the Alfie books; it is from the boy's perspective that readers see that Smoky was not a very satisfactory cat, making "bad-tempered noises" whenever Alfie picked him up. Alfie comprehends, however, how much Bob misses the cat, and finds the finality of Smoky's death sad. Hughes's trademark illustrations capture, as always, the homey details of family life in a neighborhood where the kindness of others plays a large part in everyday events. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

A storybook with echoes of Frances Hodgson Burnett—absentee parents, a lonely girl, an orphan who blossoms while working in a garden, children who meet clandestinely, away from the governess's eyes—from Hughes, who illustrated an edition of The Secret Garden: all the elements of an old-fashioned read, but precious and out-of-date. This lengthy fantasy is set in Italy in the early part of this century, where Valerie is guarded by her governess. Her father tends the hotels and restaurants he owns; her mother lives for parties. After Valerie communes with a statue of a boy on a dolphin, the boy comes to life, taking the name Cherubino and revealing himself to be the son of a sea god. Disgusted by the conditions of the seaside, Cherubino leaves to take his place as a god of the sea, but he and Valerie are certain they will meet again. Hughes's illustrations of Italian architecture and landscapes are delightful, but children may not be engrossed by the travelogue-style descriptions: ``a great, white palace set among palm trees and lush foliage, its domes and pinnacles melting into the blue haze.'' An obvious labor of love, the story has so many disparate components—Valerie's solitude, Cherubino as a stranger to be shunned, an ecological message about the cluttered seaside, romance, enchantment—that readers can't settle into it, or even believe in the connection between the two children. (Fiction. 5-8) Read full book review >
HIDING by Shirley Hughes
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

As she did in Bouncing and Giving (both 1993), Hughes explores and extends what initially looks like a simple concept: At first, a child plays peekaboo with a toddler who's gazing raptly at the cushion from behind which she declares ``You can't see me''; then they play hide-and-seek, in which the place of concealment is a secret. Then Hughes progesses, depicting hiding as a solitary game or, in an adult's case, as a way to grab a moment of peace (``Mom hides behind a book''). Animals appear, as do things that seem to hide, like the moon, or are said to hide, like flowers in winter. To Hughes's usual complement of amiable and perceptive watercolors of the same pair of children in a variety of cozily comfortable scenes are added depictions of the pair enacting 18 more verbs on the endpapers. Also new: Chatting (ISBN 1-56402-340-0). Charming and enriching. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Another beguiling thematic collection: poems; stories— including a story-within-a-story in which a child convalescing with her mother's artist friend Morag explores a rocky coast, gets on quietly with her own drawing while Morag works, and enjoys Morag's tale of a selkie wife; a wordless ``Midwinter Night's Dream'' in which a young somnambulist sees all kinds of benign fantastical creatures lurking around his home; three fine Christmas entries, notably a British barmaid's harried response to ``A couple requiring a meal and a bed'' (``It's the wrong time of year, as I've already said;/I'd help if I could, with her in that state,/But I'm rushed off my feet and we're so understaffed...''). Best, once again, are Hughes's marvelous illustrations—the glowing lamplight, the gloom brightened by an occasional sunset, the characters observed with matchless wit and affection. As welcome as a cozy blaze on a raw winter day. (Picture book/Young reader. 4-10) Read full book review >
GIVING by Shirley Hughes
Released: May 1, 1993

If childhood has an illustrator laureate, it must be Hughes: no one else captures emotions, concerns, and body language with such sensibility and affection. Here, she explores the concepts embraced by her title in a series of statements by a young child, depicting her in typical activities involving her family and neighbors. ``I gave Mom a present...And she gave me a big kiss.'' Not all return gifts are as welcome: ``...the baby gave me two of his soggy bread crusts''; the cat, coerced into a doll carriage, ``a nasty scratch.'' Touching on smiles and frowns, parties and bus seats, Hughes gently considers generosity, reciprocity, and even turning the other cheek—in this warm, wise, deceptively simple book. Endpaper vignettes introduce additional verbs; a companion title, Bouncing (ISBN 1-56402-128-9) follows the same tots through a merrily rambunctious day. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 16, 1992

Four longish stories and as many pleasant poems about happy, wholesome experiences for Alfie and his little sister: setting up shop on a cardboard box; camping out with Dad in a real tent near Grandma's (a huge pig provides an amusing midnight disturbance, just scary enough); adopting a rock (``Bonting'') that Alfie invests with so much personality that losing ``him'' at the beach is truly sad (he's found, in the end). As always, Hughes's understanding of childhood's concerns is deep, mellow, and beautifully extended in her exquisite art. Deplorably, the publisher here reverts to ``Mom'' and other needless Americanizations, undermining the splendidly evoked British setting. (Young reader/Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

Nine more stories, written by the versatile New Zealander in the 70's but only now published here; their common theme of being in tune with the natural world makes them especially apposite to the 90's. The "magic" isn't always supernatural: since he's lonely, "The Good Wizard of the Forest" plants trees and talks to them while they share his meals (he gives them "plant food cake"); in the end, the grandchildren of those who used to fear him deem him good because he has planted a forest. The title story is about a girl seeking independence from her father, a musical conductor; she thrives in the business of restoring wilted plants by playing the harp to them. Mahy's astringent common sense is in evidence: in "The Trees," all the children but one enjoy seeing a row of dangerously old pines cut down, and even that one child is reconciled by the genuine sympathy of the adults involved and a reprieve for her favorite, the swing tree. Realistic or merrily fantastical, these tales have a special sweetness: a delightful blend of tried-and-true storylines (more than one ends in a happy marriage), language that's witty or lyrical but always fresh, uniquely imaginative settings, and pungently original characters. All this plus vintage b&w drawings by the talented Hughes. A treasure. (Short stories. 8-12)Read full book review >
WHEELS by Shirley Hughes
Released: May 27, 1991

Busy Trotter Street stars again, with a typically benevolent Hughes flavor to the events. Billy's mum takes care of Marco while Marco's mum works in a bakery; the two friends enjoy racing their old bikes, and each hopes for a much-needed new one. Billy gets his wish on his birthday; economic reality means that Marco doesn't, and he is understandably disappointed. However, Marco's big brother has made him a go-cart, fashioned with care and beautifully painted—and it's a winner in the annual ``Non- Bicycle Race'' in the local park, when the many contestants (who will be familiar to fans of the series) turn up with scooters, skateboards, roller skates, etc. Another warm, generous, delectably illustrated slice of life as it should be from this master of realistic stories. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: March 22, 1989

For everyone who'd like to return to the comfortable family and neighborhood made so entirely real in the four previous books about Alfie and his little sister, a generous collection of incidents and vignettes. The two children cheerfully make a mess of their breakfast while Dad tries to read the paper; Alfie shares a photo album with Grandma and hears how her brother Will once got into extraordinary mischief; Annie Rose, who is just learning to talk, takes Alfie's obstreperous friend Bernard as her special friend and learns his name as her fifth word (after "Mommy," "Daddy," "no," and "more"). In a quiet saga that says a lot about how things change, Mr. MacNally's hat becomes a toy, a gift to the milkman on a wet day, and finally a bed for a stray puppy. And when Alfie is page for his mother's friend, Annie Rose appoints herself impromptu bridesmaid. Like their neatly plotted predecessors, these nine pieces explore childhood's joys and satisfactions with uncommon sensitivity and warmth, both in their attractively ingenuous language and in the consummate draughtsmanship and humor of their illustrations. Lovely as a first chapter book to share with preschoolers, or for Alfie's old friends to read to themselves. Read full book review >

Old Mrs. Dean next door really is a pain: officiously, she interferes when the kids slide on an ice patch, causing the fall she meant to prevent; she's a boring, TV-watching babysitter; worst, she's always complaining about Samantha's dog. When Sam and her friend make a grumpy-looking snow person and label it "Mrs. Mean," it's understandable. But Sam's not malicious. During the night (Christmas Eve), she's conscience-stricken; and her happiness at finding that rain has obliterated her mischief before Mrs. Dean's feelings are hurt prompts a friendlier exchange, in the spirit of the season. This third book about a realistic yet exemplary neighborhood is blessed as usual with Hughes's masterful compositions and characterizations and her warmhearted humor—note, especially, a rhythmic sequence of pictures of the precariously balanced kids on ice. Delightful. Read full book review >