“If you’ve read Dogger, you can probably relax on other literature”

Just in case you didn’t know, here’s the story of Dogger: Dave loses his beloved stuffed dog, Dogger. The next day at the school fair, her big sister Bella wins a huge teddy bear. Dave sees Dogger at the toy stand: for sale for 5 pence. A little girl buys it. She won’t give it back; Dave cries; and “then Bella did something very nice”. She gives her bear to the girl and takes Dogger back.

There’s a strong argument to be made that, if you’ve read Dogger, you can probably relax on other literature. Get to Dostoyevsky when you can, but you’ve mastered the basics. You already know the loss, the love, the sacrifice and the need to soften the harsh rotation of the messy old world.

The late Shirley Hughes, who died at the age of 94, made the world of her books shine with pure reality. Her parents often look exhausted and crumpled and ironic in their love. Her children are real children: in Alfie’s Christmas, after dinner “Annie Rose was tired and angry and she needed a rest.

The books take absolutely seriously the perils and triumphs of early childhood: how vast and intense the world seems. Her children are sometimes lost and overwhelmed, but they are always taken care of.

It was as if Shirley Hughes didn’t believe in the concept of smallness – as if she believed that these small people are infinitely large, and as such, are in infinite need of tenderness, patience and kindness.

Kindness, above all. These books sing of kindness.

I am so sorry that Shirley Hughes passed away, but so infinitely grateful that she survived.


Katherine Rundel is a children’s author

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