Jilly Murphy, beloved children’s author and illustrator, has died from cancer at the age of 72.
The author and illustrator was known best for her Worst Witch book series, and the Large Family picture books.
The Worst Witch books which follow the misadventures of young witch Mildred Hubble and her friends, were inspired by Murphy’s own experiences at a convent school. Jill Murphy had written the first in the series at age 18 and then was published when she was 24.
The books have since been adapted for a television and film in the 80s, and then two more TV series in the 1990s and 2010s. There has also been a hit stage show! Her legacy has touched the lives of generations of children.
There was even news that Disney were hoping to adapt them in the 1990s but Murphy refused. She later said: “They wanted complete control over everything, which I just could not bear.”
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.”
In a statement announcing her death on Friday, 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.”
Pamela Todd, Murphy’s friend and agent for over 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.”