Honorary degree for favourite children’s author

Posted on 13th December 2012

One of the UK’s best-loved children’s authors has been awarded an honorary degree by the University of Chester for her prolific and highly-acclaimed work.

Honorary graduate Shirley Hughes with Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester.
Honorary graduate Shirley Hughes with Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester.
I’m never happier than sitting in front of my drawing board every morning and working on the illustrations for my next book
Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes OBE, who originally hails from West Kirby, Wirral, received a Master of Arts Degree honoris causa and was presented with her certificate at her London home by Professor Tim Wheeler, the University’s Vice-Chancellor.

He said: “Shirley’s work has delighted, entertained and informed generations of readers, who have gone on to share her imaginative visions in words and pictures with their children and grandchildren.

“It is entirely appropriate that her canon is recognised by the University, which educates, trains and nurtures the talents of tomorrow’s teachers, artists and writers, and Shirley will be an inspiration to them.” 

A former West Kirby Grammar School for Girls pupil, Shirley’s interest in drawing and creating fantasy worlds as a child launched her career in later life as a writer and an illustrator of both her own stories and those of other well-known authors.

An interest in the theatre continued with the study of costume design at Liverpool Art School, followed by the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford.

In terms of the influences of her youth, she cites illustrated classics by Arthur Rackham and Will Heath Robinson. As she grew up, she was also fascinated by the paintings in the Walker Art Gallery (which later hosted an exhibition of her work, as did the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.)

Over four decades she has had more than 70 books published and illustrated hundreds more. Overseas distribution covers several continents.

Among the household names, whose books have since been graced by Shirley’s drawings are Noel Streatfield, Dorothy Edwards, Alison Uttley and Ian Serraillier.

Shirley has been much decorated by her profession. Being awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal on two separate occasions, in 1977 for Dogger and in 2003 for Ella’s Big Chance, the former has also voted the public’s favourite recipient of that accolade in 2007. She was also presented with the Eleanor Farjeon Award for Services to Children’s Literature in 1984. Even broader recognition came in 1998, when she was awarded an OBE for Services to Children’s Literature.

She has generously shared her knowledge and expertise, delivering lectures to students and speaking both to education professionals at conferences and to pupils in schools and libraries.

She said: “I’m never happier than sitting in front of my drawing board every morning and working on the illustrations for my next book.”