Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy

Oh yes! Mother and daughter duo Shirley Hughes OBE and Clara Vulliamy are in My Book Corner today – creators of that fab new illustrated chapter book series, Dixie O’Day.

I’m not ashamed to admit I did my happy dance when these two agreed to an interview at My Book Corner …

… and certainly not ashamed to admit repeating that dance as I prepared to add their answers to this page. They’re pretty awesome!

As an extra treat Dixie and Percy added some answers too, PLUS …. they’ve given us an exclusive sneak peek at the next Dixie O’Day adventure at the end of their interview.

Too much dancing at this desk today!!

Shirley Hughes

What was the best thing about working with your daughter?!

Having some great laughs while sitting around my kitchen table, dreaming up the main characters of Dixie O’Day and his friend Percy, as well as thrilling new adventures they will be going on next. And, later, seeing how all her witty and inventive illustrations enhanced the stories. 

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?

One boy asked if I had sustained any serious injuries in World War Two (luckily I didn’t, though I vividly remember the Liverpool blitz). And one very nice letter, addressed to Shirley Huge, wanted to know if I was ‘published wildly abroad’ – if only!

I always answer children’s letters, they are so marvelous to receive. 

Clara Vulliamy

Tell us about you in 25 words or less.

Bad at sums, good at finding things to laugh about. A big fan of tiny things, the colour blue and the word YES. 

What makes you happy?

Sitting at my drawing board, at top of the house with a view out over the back garden, and the work going well; being on my own but knowing there’s someone coming home again shortly in time for a cuppa and a chat.

Where have you always wanted to visit, but haven’t made it to … yet? 

I’m not a huge traveller and would rather get to know a few places very well. I love the Outer Hebrides – small remote islands on the far western edge of Scotland: I have visited some and I would love to visit them all.

Where is your favourite place to illustrate?

At the moment I love to illustrate the world of Dixie and Percy best – the late 1950’s setting, with the American-influenced airstream diner, the Mad Men-style interiors, and of course a constant supply of crazy and retro vehicles zooming past.

What’s the best thing about being a published author?

Knowing that there’s a young reader out there somewhere with their nose in a book of mine, going into an imaginative world of their own that is entirely unique to them and separate from mine, but connects us. Hearing from parents that they have found a story useful to share with their children during one of life’s epic events (a new sibling, first day at school)… and spotting one of my books in a bookshop and surreptitiously putting in it a more prominent position! Shhh don’t tell anyone…

Who or what inspires you?

My Mum. I would consider myself lucky to have half her creative energy and sparkiness at her age.

Young people generally, staying hopeful and resilient in a difficult world; and my own two children specifically, for being my best pals. 

What is your worst habit?

So many to chose from … talking aloud to myself and talking too much. I have no self-discipline and consider treats as daily necessities. Oh and I often make the same expressions as the characters I am drawing which must look very strange… 

What is on your TBR pile?

Goth Girl by Chris Riddell. The cover is fantastic, I know it’ll be a brilliant read.

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?

At a school visit, after introducing myself as an author, I was taken aback to see their faces fall – and was asked what it was like having no mum or dad. Author had been confused with orphan. I hastened to explain, and was touched by their concern! 

Did we forget anything?

Yes! And your readers can guess the question, because the answer is a victoria sponge with white chocolate icing… 

Just for fun – answers by Dixie and Percy!

Tea or coffee?
Dixie: a nice cup of tea and a biscuit to dunk with.
Percy: is hot chocolate on offer? With whipped cream and a flake, please! 

Paper books or e-books?
Dixie: REAL books – we don’t go in for any of that new technology in Didsworth… 

Vegemite or Marmite?
Percy: Marmite on crumpets, mmm…

Write or type?
Dixie: I am writing my memoirs at the moment, fascinating stuff. I always write by hand.
Percy: and I hold the pens and say encouraging things about each new chapter.

Poetry or prose?
Dixie: sometimes we make up poems when we are out on a drive, taking turns with each line. 

Beach or bush?
Dixie: the bush for me, I do like a sturdy walk and fresh country air.
Percy: and I prefer a day on the beach: a paddle, a pedalo and an ice cream or two… 

Hot or cold?
Dixie: a jolly trip out in the car on a cold snowy day…

Percy: followed by an evening by a warm fire with supper on a tray watching the TV!

Thanks to Dixie & Percy for this sneak peek at their next adventure…


Dixie looking very dashing in bow tie and dinner jacket, from The Great Diamond Robbery.

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