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Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy: Webchat with mother and daughter / author and illustrator of Dixie O'Day In the Fast Lane - Tuesday 17 September, 1-2pm

(91 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 16-Sep-13 11:31:02

To coincide with the publication of their first collaboration, we're delighted that author Shirley Hughes and her daughter, illustrator Clara Vulliamy will be joining us tomorrow lunchtime (Tuesday 17 September between 1 and 2pm) to answer your questions.

Shirley has written and illustrated more than 200 children's books and is one of the best-loved writers for children. She has won the Kate Greenaway Medal twice and has been awarded the OBE for her distinguished service to children's literature. In 2007, Dogger was voted the UK's favourite Kate Greenaway Medal-winning book of all time. Clara's much loved picture books include Lucky Wish Moue and Martha and the Bunny Brothers.

Their latest creation is the first in the new Dixie O'Day series. Dixie O'Day In the Fast Lane is a gorgeous book perfectly pitched at new readers, with a chapter for each night of the week as well as wonderful illustrations, maps, character introductions and even a Q&A with Dixie himself.

Join Clara and Shirley tomorrow at 1pm or post them a question in advance.

Calypso2 Tue 17-Sep-13 11:57:34

Congratulations on Dixie O'Day - we'll definitely be looking out for this. I remember the bad harry trifle eating incident as well - how funny. I even remember the silver balls on top of the trifle. It stayed with me. What do you think is the ingredient that makes books last so long? I often read My Naughty Little Sister and Milly Molly Mandy to my kids and even though they seem very old fashioned in the language and behaviour of the adults/children they still adore them. Are there any contemporary books that you think will have such endurance?

FloraSunderfield Tue 17-Sep-13 11:59:50

Hi Shirley and Clara,

Dixie O'Day is a beautiful book, I love it! I was wondering what inspired the character names in this story? Why did you name your main character Dixie?

Thank you!

penelope07 Tue 17-Sep-13 12:32:29

Hi Shirley and Clara,
I think Dixie O'Day is perfect for first readers. How did you both work out the story and divide it up between you - who would draw and who would write? plus who is the inspiration for the female character Louella?

TannithJones Tue 17-Sep-13 12:40:35

Hi Shirley and Clara!

Congratulations on Dixie O'Day: In the Fast Lane

My little girl loves Lou Ella and wants to dress like her all the time. Do you both have a favourite character from the new book? Or is that like asking a parent to pick their favourite child?

Thanks!

Isabeller Tue 17-Sep-13 12:52:06

I look forward to reading the new collaboration it looks great on the link. I really loved your books as a child, Shirley.

Could you give an insight into how you create an illustration, Clara?

rholo Tue 17-Sep-13 13:03:17

I just wanted to thank Shirley for so many happy childhood memories of reading her books. Dogger was and still is one of my very favourite books. I am.enjoying reading your books to my daughter, especially the Alfie books. There is such warmth and detail in your illustrations. I love everybody gathered around the kitchen table at the end of Alfie Gets in First and the kitchen scene in Alfie's Feet.

My question is whether you think there's anything we can do to stop so many libraries being closed, given that this is where parents and children may first come across some of your books?

And thank you again for such fabulous books smile

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 17-Sep-13 13:03:23

We're delighted that Shirley and Clara are now here at Mumsnet HQ and ready to answer your questions. Welcome Clara and Shirley

ClaraVulliamy Tue 17-Sep-13 13:04:01

Hello! I'm Clara and I'm so thrilled to be here at Mumsnet Towers! What fabulous questions, keep them coming.

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:04:08

Hello. I'm Shirley. It's great to be at Mumsnet and we'll try and answer as many of your fabulous questions as we can.

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:06:34

Willemdefoeismine

Firstly, I saw the first Dixie O'Day book reviewed in The Sunday Times and thought that the series will fill a significant gap in the new readers' book market. So that's brilliant - a bit late for my two, but hopefully it will make the transition from big, colourful picture books to 'proper' reading books just that bit easier for young children - I know my DD (now nearly 8) is a fluent reader but still finds densely-texted, thick, picture-less reading books less than appealing!

Clara and Shirley, have you long considered working together and what exactly was the catalyst for undertaking this fabulous joint venture?

Thank you! When Dixie O'Day first popped up in my mind it was packed with cliff-hangers, wacky car racers, engine failure, level-crossing peril and a breakneck finish. It's packed with illustrations. We both agree that this is really important and appealing.

ClaraVulliamy Tue 17-Sep-13 13:06:45

Willemdefoeismine

Firstly, I saw the first Dixie O'Day book reviewed in The Sunday Times and thought that the series will fill a significant gap in the new readers' book market. So that's brilliant - a bit late for my two, but hopefully it will make the transition from big, colourful picture books to 'proper' reading books just that bit easier for young children - I know my DD (now nearly 8) is a fluent reader but still finds densely-texted, thick, picture-less reading books less than appealing!

Clara and Shirley, have you long considered working together and what exactly was the catalyst for undertaking this fabulous joint venture?

Clara says, 'It was on the cards for years that we would collaborate; I guess the perfect project and the perfect moment converged. I am very lucky to be Mum's first illustrator - I hope I pass the audition! We had lots of laughs sitting at the kitchen table, dreaming up new stories for Dixie O'Day.'

AndSoWeBegin Tue 17-Sep-13 13:07:02

Hello! Lovely to have the chance to ask a question. How did you first come up with the idea for Dixie O'Day? Was it a joint idea?

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:07:49

Pawprint

Shirley, you illustrated my mum's first book, around 1980. Can't say more without outing myself, but just wanted to say we all loved your amazing illustrations. Clue - it was about two witches called Gladys and Victoria

I can remember those witches vividly. Their appeal is perennial although there are so many sci-fi competitors nowadays, but whose ever heard of a dalek called Gladys.

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:08:28

SconeInSixtySeconds

Shirley may I just say how much I love Dogger? I remember watching you talk about it on TV when I was quite young on that programme with Dick King Smith (was it Rub A Tub Dub?) and I have read it to ragged shreds to my own dc.

The line "and then Bella did something very kind" never fails to reduce me to tears and I am old enough to know better

Thank you thank you. flowers

Thank you. I'm so pleased and encouraged by your reaction to Dogger. I'm afraid I did go for the big emotional impact at the end.

ClaraVulliamy Tue 17-Sep-13 13:09:02

Bethanybunny

A question to Clara, from my daughter Bethany:

I am 5 and I really liked reading 'Martha and the bunny brothers'. The best bit was the bunny club. I've got 'Hop into Bedtime' as well and I used to have it lots of times for my bedtime story. I want to ask how do you make all the books? Do you think of the story first and then draw the pictures?

Clara says, 'Hello Bethany! I am so happy that you like my stories - thank you again! I make up stories by thinking of the pictures first. I see the story in my head, like a movie with no sound. Then I draw the pictures and write the words at the same time.'

ClaraVulliamy Tue 17-Sep-13 13:10:52

Merrylegs

Yes yes. That is my favourite bit too! (Apart from the page that says DOGGER! when we all cheer like crazy) Although actually Bella didn't like the teddy much with its starey eyes, so I wonder quite how alturistic her good deed was? Clara, did you have a Dogger when you were little? I really hope you did.

Clara says, 'It's so much easier to give away something you only HALF love! The real Dogger was my brother's toy, and he really did have one ear squashed into an upright position from lots of hugging.'

AndSoWeBegin Tue 17-Sep-13 13:10:59

Oops! My question was already asked just as I posted! It's such a fun book. I'd love to know how much involvement the publisher and your editor had in the final version of Dixie O'Day. How did your relationship work?

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:11:09

gwenniebee

We just love Alfie, Lucy, Tom, Molly, Dave, Bella... and the myriad others in my house. I have already enjoyed reading some of the stories to my 14 month old daughter and can't wait for her to be a bit bigger so she will sit still while we read them together.

Shirley, to me your books seem wonderfully timeless, but I wonder if you feel the stories or their themes have changed over the years you have been writing?

Thank you for so many years of enjoyment.

I think the lives of pre-school children change surpisingly little –the same dramas about your boots being on the right feet, or going to a party without your security blanket. Of course these are serious issues to a pre-school child and seeing a fictional child survive so triumphantly is very encouraging. Of course, Clara does this too in her books, Martha and the Bunny Brothers

mignonette Tue 17-Sep-13 13:11:33

Clara- have you thought of getting together with Janet And Allen Ahlberg's daughter Jessica for a kind of meta 'talented offspring of talented parents' collaboration?

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:11:54

Lynne73

I have loved reading Shirley's books to my two children; they have become firm favourites over the years, especially "Dogger". Just like in the story, we lost a much-loved toy which was thankfully found in our local park after a frantic torch-lit search!
Did this happen to Shirley's own child/ren? Is this what inspired her to write "Dogger"?
Thank you for your wonderful books; your portrayal of family life and its little details are so accurate and very gentle.

Dogger is a real toy. He's getting on a bit now and he's given up on the publicity circuit. He lives a quiet retirement in a special box in my house!

ClaraVulliamy Tue 17-Sep-13 13:12:46

Lynne73

I have loved reading Shirley's books to my two children; they have become firm favourites over the years, especially "Dogger". Just like in the story, we lost a much-loved toy which was thankfully found in our local park after a frantic torch-lit search!
Did this happen to Shirley's own child/ren? Is this what inspired her to write "Dogger"?
Thank you for your wonderful books; your portrayal of family life and its little details are so accurate and very gentle.

Clara says, 'I know that when Mum was small, in a reckless moment, she threw her beloved koala bear Oscar out of the car window; she said nothing for many miles. They turned back and searched, but alas he was gone forever.'

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:13:42

MacaYoniandCheese

Wow! I'm a HUGE fan of both of you and I had NO idea you were mother and daughter!

The Alfie books, Dogger and the beautifully illustrated 'My Naughty Little Sister' books have always been my go-to books at the end of the frantic dinner-bath-bed hour in my house and Clara, your lovely Milly Molly Mandy illustrations have made my children into life-long fans. Shirley, I particularly appreciate your honest portrayal of mothers...I often think of Alfie's mum, who is always calm and level-headed in fraught situations, when I encounter my own parenting trouble spots grin.

I never intended to make her some kind of a perfect mum, but she is a reassuring one I hope and she does manage to keep calm and carry on… most of the time at least!

ClaraVulliamy Tue 17-Sep-13 13:14:46

MacaYoniandCheese

Wow! I'm a HUGE fan of both of you and I had NO idea you were mother and daughter!

The Alfie books, Dogger and the beautifully illustrated 'My Naughty Little Sister' books have always been my go-to books at the end of the frantic dinner-bath-bed hour in my house and Clara, your lovely Milly Molly Mandy illustrations have made my children into life-long fans. Shirley, I particularly appreciate your honest portrayal of mothers...I often think of Alfie's mum, who is always calm and level-headed in fraught situations, when I encounter my own parenting trouble spots grin.

Clara says, 'Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed the Milly Molly Mandy illustrations. I loved immersing myself in the period detail. The fact that it still speaks to a modern audience says a lot about the timeless universality of classic children's books.'

ShirleyHughes Tue 17-Sep-13 13:16:39

AndSoWeBegin

Oops! My question was already asked just as I posted! It's such a fun book. I'd love to know how much involvement the publisher and your editor had in the final version of Dixie O'Day. How did your relationship work?

It's terribly important to have a good publisher and we had a very good editor. She came up with all sorts of ideas that added to the first story. Of course you need to have a very good publicity team that we have at Random House. The most important really is the design of the book. It's a two colour book in black and red only, and Clara is the one who came up with that idea.

ClaraVulliamy Tue 17-Sep-13 13:17:44

AndSoWeBegin

Oops! My question was already asked just as I posted! It's such a fun book. I'd love to know how much involvement the publisher and your editor had in the final version of Dixie O'Day. How did your relationship work?

Clara says, 'I worked very closely with our brilliant designer Ness Wood on the style of the book. The fifties look was right up both of our streets and it was such fun bringing different snippets of fabrics and patterns to each meeting.'

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