All hail Shirley Hughes, providing the most decorative of bookish back drops to my childhood and that of my children, whose literary and illustrative genius definitely comes to the fore at this time of year.
Her Christmas treats – Alfies Christmas, Lucy and Tom’s Christmas, The Christmas Eve Ghost to name but a few, has been added to recently by Snow in the Garden that I was lucky enough to receive under last year’s tree; a glorious compendium of stories, poems, recipes and craft all accompanied by the most delightful pictures, unsurprisingly. This year there is another welcome addition, combining Shirley Hughes’s beautiful illustrations with that other Shirley (Edwards’s) wonderful creation, My Naughty Little Sister. Originally entitled The Naughtiest Story of All, this new edition, My Naughty Little Sister and Father Christmas, is surely a must for every Christmas book shelf, combining the wit and charm of the tale of our heroine’s run in with a venerable, bearded, old man dressed in red, with some very lovely, festively adorned, illustrations.
I end on a memory of a Christmas nearly 50 years ago, when I first laughed out loud at Eight Days to Christmas by Geraldine Kaye, in the Nipper range of readers for the young at that time. It was, and still is to me, the funniest Christmas read, describing as it does, the build up to a Christmas concert for one primary school class in a school that could be anywhere in the country. The illustrations are provided by Shirley Hughes, and her images, particularly the picture of the audition for best baby doll to play Jesus, will stay with me forever.