Jonadab and Rita by Shirley Hughes

Jonadab and Rita

Written by Shirley Hughes

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

Steeped in magic, this is a wonderful story that demands to be read again and again. A bit old and a bit shabby, Jonadab is a donkey, just one of the many toys in Minnie’s toy box. Both he and his timid friend, the toy mouse Rita, are largely overlooked as Minnie plays with other, newer toys. But Jonadab is no ordinary toy. He has a secret: he can fly. Ignored for too long, Jonadab flies off and plays with the fairies in the park but what happens on his return? Shirley Hughes captures the importance of a special toy and the wonder of make believe.


Jonadab and Rita by Shirley Hughes

Jonadab is a very special toy - he can fly! But Minnie has so many other toys that often Jonadab and his friend Rita the mouse find themselves sad and lonely and left behind in the toy box ...One moonlit night, tired of being ignored, Jonadab flies away and joins a magical fairy feast. But then he can't get back in to Minnie's room, and he discovers his new fairy friends are not as kind as he thought. Will courageous Rita be able to save Jonadab, and will Minnie realise the value of the toy she has lost? This is a wonderful picture book about getting lost and finding your way home from one of our most popular and best-loved storytellers.


"Shirley Hughes is one of the greatest writers and illustrators for pre-schoolers that we have. The creator of the endearing, enduring Alfie series, she understands a small child's world to perfection... Substitute child for donkey, and you have just the way far too many children feel, especially in the holidays. The expressions on Jonadab's face - contented, bored, defiant, amazed, lonely, wretched and utterly despairing - are all too familiar" - The Times

"Picturebooks need to engage and delight children while also entertaining the adults who read them aloud. Hughes's new picturebook achieves this end triumphantly" - Sunday Times

"Children will love this little tale with great illustrations and learn a valuable lesson about appreciating their friends" - The South Wales Argus

"This heartwarming tale is a timely purchase for Christmas as it is enthralled with Shirley Hughes' beautiful prose and magical watercolour drawings - perfect bedtime reading fare." Pregnancy and Parenting

"A story which will touch all children, enriched by the enchanting illustrations from our much-loved Shirley Hughes who catches the magic and warmth of the love between a child and her favourite toys". School Librarian

"A magical tale" - Sunday Express

About the Author

Shirley Hughes

Winner of the Book Trust Lifetime Achievement Award 2015. Shirley Hughes was born and grew up in West Kirby, near Liverpool. She studied at Liverpool Art School and at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, before embarking on a career as a freelance illustrator. At first she worked as an interpretive illustrator, but she began to write and design her own picture books when her children were very young. Her first book, Lucy and Tom's Day, was published in 1960. Now living in London's Notting Hill, Shirley Hughes has illustrated over two hundred children's books and is renowned as a champion of children's literature.

She has been the recipient of the Other Award, the Kate Greenaway Medal and the prestigious Eleanor Farjeon Award. She was shortlisted for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which rewards the best in contemporary children's and young adult literature from all over the world, in 2010.

Shirley Hughes won the first ever Book Trust Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to children's literature.

Book Trust CEO, Diana Gerald, says: ‘Book Trust is thrilled that our first ever Lifetime Achievement Award goes to someone whose remarkable, multi-talented contribution to children's fiction spans several generations and continues to this day. Her characters are imprinted on the memories of two or three generations, a recognition of their enduring charm. This evergreen storytelling is something we particularly want to celebrate with this award. ‘Significantly, Shirley continues to innovate and create, providing young children with a love of reading that we know will give them a great start in life. We often hear about ‘national treasures’, but Shirley Hughes is up there with the best.’

Shirley Hughes, says: ’Being chosen for the Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award is a tremendous honour which I appreciate more than I can say. I have derived so much fulfilment from my long career, first as an illustrator of other artists’ stories and then creating my own. Best of all has been perennially encountering very young children who are learning to look with such rapt pleasure and follow a story visually long before they are able to read.’

In her own words: As a child

I grew up in a quiet seaside town near Liverpool, in the days when there was no television, only radio, which we listened to a lot. My older sisters and I messed about in the back garden, pored over comics and surveyed the world from the flat garage roof. There were acres of time to be filled in then. We combatted boredom by dressing up and acting out plays to any audience we could press into service (including the cats), making up fantasy worlds and, of course, drawing pictures. There was a good supply of books. Most inspiring were wonderful illustrated classics, with colour plates by artists like Arthur Rackham and Will Heath Robinson. Later, the cinema was a terrific source of glamour and narrative, as were the Victorian paintings in the Walker Arts Gallery, Liverpool. I am pretty sure that having a lot of time to read, to dream or simply mooch about, played a major part in my becoming an author/illustrator.

As an adult

When our quiet, well-conducted suburban childhood was rudely interrupted by World War II, the grown-ups, as luck would have it, were far too absorbed in the war effort to bother much about our academic, social and cultural achievements. With me, drawing stuck. I just went on doing it. I wrote too, but kept that secret. I had a good high-school education, but I got out as soon as I could and went to Liverpool Art School to study costume design, and later, at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. This theatrical impulse turned into the desire to illustrate stories (another kind of theatre). I got the sketchbook habit, which has stayed with me always. You hang around, observing and drawing real people (especially, in my case, children), then you go back to the drawing board and make it all up. The characters in my stories are not my own children at that age, or anyone else's, but inspired by a combination of both.

As an artist

When I first started doing the rounds with a folio, way back in the1950s, I got plenty of work illustrating other people's books, mostly in black and white line. It was an excellent apprenticeship. I was married with two small children when I tried my first picture book, Lucy and Tom's Day, an unassuming little book about everyday life. I was very tentative about using colour then. It took a long time to acquire the expansive confidence you need to let go and let it flow across the page. Two big breaks for me were Dogger, which was my first book to be widely published abroad, and being asked by Walker Books to do a series for very young children, which ended up, via The Nursery Collection, as Olly and Me. These books gave me an opportunity to use a very simple, first-person text, in a kind of rhythmical verse form. Recently, I have launched into picture books for older children with more sophisticated themes and artwork. I can't bear hearing grown-ups telling children they can't have picture books any more as they can read! Why remove such a great narrative pleasure?

Things you didn't know about Shirley Hughes

1. At school, I was always the last to be picked for the hockey team.

2. I'm told I was an easy-going baby, but it didn't last.

3. I like birds, but would hate one to come near me.

4. I like ironing.

5. I never travel by underground.

6. I like travelling by bus, especially London buses.

7. Once on Australian TV, I had to hide in a Wendy house then leap out and hug a huge bear.

8. I save elastic bands, paper clips and pieces of string that I find lying about.

9. I jazz about a lot when washing up.

10. I fantasize about having a house by the sea.

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Book Info


32 pages
Interest Age: From 3


Shirley Hughes
More books by Shirley Hughes

Author's Website


Red Fox an imprint of Random House Children's Books

Publication date

4th March 2010




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