Dec 13, 2023

Australia’s favourite kid’s author, illustrator, fairy godmother Shirley Barber dies at 88

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Shirley Barber's books and merchandise have been a popular part of childhood for many Aussies. [Source: The Advertiser]

Australia’s beloved children’s author, illustrator and fairy lover Shirley Barber has died aged 88. 

In a statement by her publisher Brolly Books, it was confirmed the author of early reading staples such as Rainbow Magic and The Tooth Fairy died “peacefully in her sleep” on Tuesday morning. 

A third-generation artist and avid writer since her childhood, Ms Barber grew up in the Channel Islands before moving to Australia in the 1960s where she developed a love of nature and painting.

She received her first publishing deal with Memory Press in the late 1980s with her picture book Martha B. Rabbit: The Fairies’ Cook but publishers were unsure how it would be received by the public. 

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Two of Ms Barber’s popular children’s books. [Source: Amazon]

“The publishers need not have worried,” Brolly Books wrote in their statement. 

During her career, Ms Barber authored and illustrated more than 30 original picture books, each in a distinct style of rich detail, beautiful animated characters, and strong visual scenescapes. 

Her books, diaries and calendars have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and have since inspired spin-off merchandise including jigsaws, clothing and stickers.

A pioneer of children’s fantasy stories, Ms Barber encountered criticism for venturing into this genre and creating works aimed at children but remained committed to creating a beautiful retreat for children through her stories and artwork. 

“In each of Shirley’s children’s books there are gentle messages of kindness, caring, friendship, and peace, never overstated but simply conveyed by the characters in her stories and their actions.”

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