Jill Murphy: The Worst Witch and Large family author dies at 72

Peace at Last, published in 1980, was Murphy's first picture book

Children’s author and illustrator Jill Murphy, who created the beloved Worst Witch books, has died at the age of 72.

Murphy also published picture books including the Large family series, Peace at Last and The Last Noo-Noo.

Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, managing director of Macmillan Children’s Books, said: “She had an unparalleled talent for storytelling through words and pictures.

“Without doubt, her picture books have become timeless children’s classics.”

Murphy wrote the first Worst Witch novel, which followed the exploits of Mildred Hubble at witch school, at the age of 18 and it was published in 1974. The eighth and most recent came out in 2018.

The books were adapted for a TV film in 1986, and two TV series, in the 1990s and 2010s. There has also been a hit stage show.

The Worst Witch has been a favourite on the page, screen and stage

In a statement, her son Charlie said: “I feel beyond lucky to have had a mum like mine, and it’s impossible to summarise the ways her absence will be felt.

“She had a depth of character, a warmth and a life force like no other. I miss her so much already.”

Murphy died of cancer on Wednesday, according to her publisher.

Peace at Last, published in 1980, was Murphy’s first picture book

Pamela Todd, Murphy’s friend and agent for more than 30 years, added: “It’s a sad day for children’s books. Jill was so creative, beautiful and funny.

“Her genius lay in the way both the child and the adult could identify with her stories, which she wrote and illustrated herself.

“Children who grew up on Peace At Last, Whatever Next! and The Large Family are now buying the books for their children’s children.

“The little girls who created playground games around Mildred Hubble and her classmates are now directing, producing and acting in the television series of The Worst Witch and the stage show, which last year took the Olivier award.

“Jill was just coming into her prime and had so much more to offer. This is a great loss, not least to me personally, but we are comforted that she leaves an amazing legacy of books for generations to come.”

The Large family series, which began in 1986 with Five Minutes Peace, has sold more than five million copies around the world and has also been adapted for TV.

Peace At Last and All In One Piece were both commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal, while The Last Noo-Noo won the Smarties Prize for ages 0-5 in 1995.


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