Jill Murphy

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Jill Murphy (born 5 July 1949) is a British writer and illustrator of children's books, best known for the Worst Witch novels and the "Large Family" picture books. She has been called "one of the most engaging writers and illustrators for children in the land".[1]


Born in London, Murphy showed an interest in writing and drawing at the age of six;[2] although not excelling in other school subjects, she had made her own enormous library of hand-written and illustrated books while still at primary school. She enjoyed reading boarding-school stories, which provided material and inspiration for Miss Cackle's Academy in the Worst Witch series, as did the Ursuline High School, Wimbledon, which she attended.[3] She grew up a Roman Catholic, but she is no longer practising. Her stay-at-home mother was a "book maniac" and her father was an Irish engineer.[4]

Murphy started to write The Worst Witch while still at school, but put the book on hold while she attended Chelsea and Croydon Art Schools.[5] She continued to write it during a year living in a village in Togo, West Africa, and later while working as a nanny back in the UK. After receiving rejection letters from publishers to whom she offered the book (as she recalls, "They said children would be frightened about a school for witches..."),[6] in 1970 when she was 21 she decided to try the new young company Allison and Busby.[7][8] "They accepted it immediately, and printed 5,000 copies, and I remember wondering how many aunts and uncles I had, and what we would do with the rest," she said in an interview with The Telegraph.[9] However, the book proved an instant success, selling out within two months of publication.[10] Murphy continued working as a nanny until the publication in 1980 of The Worst Witch Strikes Again prompted her to devote herself to writing full-time.[3]

She gave birth to her son Charlie in spring 1990. Her marriage to potter Roger Michell ended in divorce.[11]

In 1986, a television movie with the same title as her fantasy novel premiered on HBO. It later aired on The Disney Channel during the 1990s around the time of Halloween.

The Worst Witch stories have become some of the most successful titles on the Young Puffin paperback list and have sold more than three million copies.[12] They were also made into a successful 1986 film and an ITV series, airing on CITV between 1998 and 2001.

Murphy is also known for picture books, especially the "Large Family" series, which detail the domestic chaos of an elephant family. First published in 1986, Five Minutes Peace has sold more than five million copies worldwide and been translated into 19 languages.[13] For the second book, All in One Piece (1987), she was a commended runner-up for the Greenaway Medal from the British Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject (the second of her two commendations).[14][a] The "Large Family" is now a TV series on CBeebies and ABC Kids. In 1996 The Last Noo-Noo was adapted as a play and performed at the Polka Theatre, London.[3]

In 2007, Murphy received an honorary fellowship from University College Falmouth.[15]

Murphy also wrote Dear Hound in 2009 about a deerhound who goes missing after a storm and the quest for his owners to find him.

Year Book Award Achievement 
1980 Peace at Last Kate Greenaway Medal —the British Library Association annual award for children's book illustration Commended[14][a]
1986 Five Minutes' Peace Children's Book Award Shortlisted
1987 Five Minutes' Peace Parents Magazine Best Books for Babies Award Winner
1987 All In One Piece  Kate Greenaway Medal Commended[14][a]
1987 All In One Piece Children's Book Award Shortlisted
1994 A Quiet Night In Kate Greenaway Medal Shortlisted
1995 The Last Noo-Noo Smarties Prize (ages 0–5) Winner
1995 The Last Noo-Noo English 4-11 Outstanding Children's Book of the Year Shortlisted
1996 The Last Noo-Noo Sheffield Children's Book Award Winner
1996 The Last Noo-Noo Gateshead Gold Award Winner


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Today there are usually eight books on the Greenaway Medal shortlist. According to CCSU, some runners-up were Commended (from 1959) or Highly Commended (from 1974). There were 99 distinctions of both kinds in 44 years including three for 1980 and three for 1987 (one highly commended).


  1. ^ Kellaway, Kate (30 October 2005). "The witch is back in town" (review of The Worst Witch Saves the Day). The Observer. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
  2. ^ Rachel Carlyle, "Bestselling children’s author Jill Murphy: I have never thought about retiring", Daily Express, 4 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Jill Murphy: Biography". Images of Delight: Original artwork from children's book illustrators. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
  4. ^ Craig, A (16 October 2005). "Parenting: The Longest Goodbye". The Times. London. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Jill Murphy", Walker Books.
  6. ^ Kate Whiting, "Book review: Five Minutes Peace", Irish Examiner, 5 December 2015.
  7. ^ Kingshill, Katie (7 September 2011), "Clive Allison: Publisher whose eclectic imprint was in the vanguard of independent houses" (obituary), The Independent.
  8. ^ Alice Vincent, "An oral history of The Worst Witch", The Telegraph, 31 October 2014.
  9. ^ Daisy Bridgewater, "Children's notebook: the enduring charms of Mildred Hubble", The Telegraph, 6 March 2014.
  10. ^ Joanna Carey, "Authorgraph No.136: Jill Murphy", Books for Keeps, September 2002.
  11. ^ Michell, Julia (21 May 2018). "Roger Michell obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  12. ^ Interviews by Rebecca Armstrong: "How We Met: Jill Murphy & Katharine Holabird", The Independent, 3 May 2008.
  13. ^ Jill Murphy interview ("2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the classic children's picture book, Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy"), Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4, 25 February 2016.
  14. ^ a b c "Kate Greenaway Medal" Archived 16 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine. 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  15. ^ "Postgraduate Awards Day". 2007 news archive. Combined Universities in Cornwall. 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2008.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

WARNING: For most WorldCat records see instead "Murphy, Jill" (without "1949–").