Out and About

Out and About

by Shirley Hughes

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From mud pies to mist, from sand castles to snow, this year-round collection of original verse celebrates the out-of-doors with the same joy small children bring to it. "The poems would be worth reading without the artwork, but here it almost steals the show."—Booklist.

Author Biography:

Shirley Hughes was trained at Liverpool Art School and at the


From mud pies to mist, from sand castles to snow, this year-round collection of original verse celebrates the out-of-doors with the same joy small children bring to it. "The poems would be worth reading without the artwork, but here it almost steals the show."—Booklist.

Author Biography:

Shirley Hughes was trained at Liverpool Art School and at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. She illustrated many books by other authors before she started to write her own picture books. Her own family, two sons and a daughter, were very young then and she learned the craft of storytelling mostly by reading to them. Her books have won many awards and are published in Europe, China, Japan, and the Far East, as well as Australia, Canada, the U. K., and the U. S. A. She travels widely, talking to and drawing for children in schools and libraries as well as at adult conventions.

Shirley is married to an architect, now retired, and they have lived in the same family house, overlooking a London square garden, for more than forty years. They have, to date, six grandchildren who keep them on their toes.In Her Own Words...

"I grew up in a nice, quiet, well-behaved suburb of Liverpool. But our uneventful lives were rudely interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Wewent to school carrrying gas masks, did air-raid shelter drills, saved Up mountains of scrap metal, and attempted to knit Mufflers for the troops. (Mine were very long; I never quite got the hang of casting off.) I slept under the stairs (hiring the winter of the big blitz, when we saw the sky over Liverpool lit by searchlights, tracer bullets, and Fires from the burning docks.

"All this may sound very exciting, But theproblem with wartime is that when it's not frightening, it's deadly dull. You can't go on holiday, the grown-ups are too harassed and exhausted to pay much attention to amusements, and every nice kind of food is scarce. I recall, on a rare trip to the seaside (the beach was out of bounds, full of barbed wire and concrete gun emplacements), gazing at a longempty slot machine which had held chocolate bars and now seemed like a rusting icon from another world.

"Nevertheless, we managed to have a good time. We drew a lot, read and wrote stories, and got up magazines. (Mine was called, rather unoriginally, 'Girl's Own.) We acted plays, dressed in homemade costumes, to any audience we could press into service, cats included. Later, we became hopelessly stageand movie-struck. I think that by accident I had an ideal childhood for an illustrator. In a pre-televisual age, our Sunday afternoon outings, if we were lucky, were to Liverpool Art Gallery, which was cram-full of Victorian an narrative paintings with titles like 'The Hopeless Dawn,' 'Too Late!,' and 'When Did You Last See Your Father?' Tremendous stuff, and it fueled my lifelong conviction that stories and pictures belong together. I think most children probably feel the same.

"With me, drawing and painting stuck. I was never much good at anything else, so I went on doing them. Writing was a secret thing, kept well under wraps. When I emerged from art school, I wrote to a distinguished typographer saying I wanted to illustrate children's books. He wrote back saying that this was impossible 'except as an adjunct to teaching or matrimony.' All the same, I was determined to do it.

"When I think of an idea for a story, it always starts with a very strong image in my head, usually of a child doing something. With picture books, the words are unthinkable without the images-the two develop together, like a film. Alfie first made his appearance running up the street ahead of his mum, who came trundling behind with the shopping and his baby sister, Annie Rose, in the buggy. I knew from the first moment I reached for a pencil to get down a rough drawing of him that he was positively pink in the face with determination to get into the action. A lot has happened to him-and to mesince. He is a very ordinary little boy, a kind of fouryear-old Everyman just beginning to come to grips with the complexities of life. Now, rather to my amazement, well over two million Alfie books have been sold worldwide. But I still relate back to that rapid sketch done in a state of high excitement, which is where it all began."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The British author-artist's new entry in the Nursery Collection will captivate parents and children, as do all her inimitable celebrations of family life. Bright, exuberantly detailed paintings illustrate rhyming lines featuring a small girl and her wobbly baby brother as they experience the special features of the passing seasons. The book begins with the siblings throwing themselves wholeheartedly into glorious mud on the first spring day. Later, the two join in communal activities as neighbors are all ``out and about'': the kids play; grown-ups plant gardens and spruce up their houses. In the same inviting vein, the story continues into summer, fallwith a harvest of fruits, nuts, berries as just ``desserts''and snowy winter, crowned by Christmas. A lovely book. Ages 3-7. (March)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1 A rosy, fat-cheeked little girl narrates 18 simple poems about the weather and the seasons, describing experiences with mud, blossoms, water, and sand with rhythmic simplicity. While the poems are pleasant and evoke the images a child might have of weather and seasons, it is Hughes' realistic pictures which make this book. Readers not only come to know the seasons through natural data but also come to know the small narrator's family and her world. Children will enjoy watching for the narrator's baby brother, her parents, her cat and dog, and her special toys in the half-page watercolor paintings and the small detailed pictures which surround the text. Seasonal poems are clumped together and set off by a double-page spread which highlights people and their activities in each season. The busy spring pictures, full of people gardening, cleaning, and hanging out of windows to talk and enjoy the weather, evoke the sense of freedom of that season after a long winter. While the poems would work well in preschool story hour sessions on seasons, the detailed pictures cry out for a lap or occasions in which one or several children sit down and pore over the book. Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
From the Publisher
Sweeter and emotionally safer verse for the very young comes from the prolific British writer and illustrator Shirley Hughes. "Out and About: A First Book of Poems" is full of breezes and sunshine.
—The Wall Street Journal

This first book of poems is perfect for reading aloud and for a search through the pictures for lively kids, dogs, squirrels and birds.
—Washington Parent

Hughes’s pen-and-watercolor illustrations, the stars of this show, are deliciously full of motion...her approach is gentle, humorous, old-fashioned, full of human character.
—The Boston Globe

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Shirley Hughes’ style of illustration is so distinctive that it causes warm prickles of expectations. From the cover art of a family sharing a breezy fall day through the back cover art where the breezes seem to have picked up and are challenging a grown man and dog with its force, every person, branch and leaf requires extra examination to see the detail of the work. This collection of lovely, simple poems for young readers explores the seasonal changes of the world through the eyes of Katie and her baby brother, Ollie. In this reprint from 1988, the year starts in the spring, logical perhaps because of its promise of rebirth. The very first page, a neighborhood “snapshot,” is overwhelming in the minute detail of occupation. Fathers garden; mothers stroll; children go on a class walk. Everything is happening if only the reader cares to look. Kate and Olly live in an area where natural exploration is possible; so mud is the “Slippy, sloppy, squelchy kind,/The slap-it-into-pies kind,” and mother does not chastise her mud-covered offspring. Summer is a time for sloshing buckets of water and spraying it from houses, and sand is the “Run-between-you-fingers kind.” Particularly evocative is the poem “The Grass House”, in which Katy finds a private place where only a stalking cat and hurrying ants can find her. It is a different, idyllic world where parents don’t worry and when a child seeks seclusion from the bustle of activity around her. Hughes has created just such a world for a whole year long, ending with the expectation of a Christmas tree and presents to come. While decidedly British in feel, the universality of childish exploration and discovery is sure to satisfy a world of young readers. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross; Ages 4 to 8.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Nursery Collection Series
Edition description:
1st U.S. ed
Product dimensions:
9.12(w) x 10.71(h) x 0.43(d)
Age Range:
4 - 6 Years

Meet the Author

Shirley Hughes has illustrated more than two hundred children’s books and is one of the world’s best-loved writers for children. She has won the Kate Greenaway Medal twice and has been awarded an OBE for her distinguished service to children’s literature. In 2007, her book Dogger was voted the U.K.’s favorite Kate Greenaway Medal–winning book of all time. Shirley Hughes lives in London.

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