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And now Hughes is the first recipient of the Book Trust Lifetime Award.

Allan Ahlberg, author of Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum, turned down the inaugural award last year, because it is sponsored by the online retailer Amazon.

Her break came in the 1950s when Dorothy Edwards asked her to illustrate a series entitled My Naughty Little Sister that was to become an instant classic.

“Being an illustrator is like being an actor; you are called on to play a role in a production and if the part — the story — is good then you perform better,” says Hughes, magnanimously.

“They are such a terrible distraction; children love them and I understand why because they are instant and whizzy.

Books, on the other hand, need — deserve — space and time.

But Shirley Hughes’s books, with their deftly sketched figures and everyday adventures, uphold a greater, altogether more magical truth about the sequestered world of childhood.