Can you remember what you were doing 30 years ago? Author and illustrator Jill Murphy does! Her much-loved picture book Five Minutes' Peace was first published in 1986 and we love it as much now as we did then.  Time moves on and families evolve but the oh-so-familiar domestic chaos of the Large Family has endeared this herd of elephants to us for three decades and will continue to do so for another 30 years at least!

Find a quiet corner, curl up and take five (Mrs Large will be very jealous) as we take a look at this trumpeting triumph and make a few introductions.

Let us introduce you to the creative force behind the book - author and illustrator Jill Murphy who has kindly answered some quick fire questions:



How did you come up with the idea for this book? I didn’t have any children at the time of writing Five Minutes' Peace and so the whole series was based on a friend of mine who had three children and two more over the years. How do you manage to grab five minutes peace? When I have five minutes - I like to go for a walk on the beach with the dog. Of all your creations - who is your favourite character? Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch because she is based on me and having a hard time at my strict, academic school.  Mrs. Large is also one of my favourites - I love how she is on her eternal quest to find ‘Five Minutes' Peace'! Tell us about the books you loved reading as a child...were you inspired by anyone in particular?




Jill Murphy. Image (C) Virgin Trains. 


As a child, my favourite books were The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I especially loved Pauline Baynes’ illustrations  and spent hours copying them and sticking them on my wall. Imagine my delight when, many years later, Pauline Baynes wrote a fan letter to ME, saying that she loved my illustrations and had bought lots of copies of my book The Last Noo-Noo for her great nephews and nieces!? If I had known that my illustration-heroine would pay me such an amazing compliment all those years later, I would have been a very happy little girl!

Isn't this just amazing?

It is such an achievement to celebrate 30 years in print that we thought we'd ask Walker Books publisher Deirdre McDermott a few questions too.

How does the Large Family series fit into Walker Books' publishing history?  When Sebastian Walker, the founder of Walker Books, approached Jill Murphy in 1985, Walker Books was still a fledgling publishing house with just over 100 books to its name. Sebastian introduced himself to Jill with his characteristic directness: “I’m Sebastian Walker,” he announced, “a successful children’s publisher.” Jill was invited in for lunch at the Walker offices … and the rest is history. Charmed by the somewhat unusual but friendly atmosphere of the office (“It was like the Tardis; you went up these strange stairs and opened this rather grim door and the place was filled with light and flowers and people who were pleased to see you”), Jill Murphy went on to write and illustrate the Large Family series, beginning with Five Minutes’ Peace, which was an instant success. How much do you love the Large Family? The funny, unpretentious and loveable story of the Large family rang very true, speaking to mums and little ones everywhere, and winning Parents magazine Best Book for Babies Award.

30 years on, it remains an absolute family favourite: a picture book that has sold over two million copies worldwide; a book that has stood the test of time; and a book that we are very proud to continue to publish.

For as long as there are children who want to spend time with mum, and as long as there are mums who try for that elusive five minutes of ‘me time’ in their busy day, there will be readers who see themselves in the pages of this beautifully observed story of wonderful, hectic – but ultimately ordinary – family life.

Illustration (c) 1986 Jill Murphy. Reproduced by permissions of Walker Books LTD, London SE11 5HJ

Why not herd together your little elephants and join us on Saturday 5 March as we welcome professional storyteller Vanessa Woolf to Seven Stories - The National Centre for Children's Books.  Fans of Jill Murphy's Five Minutes' Peace can stomp up to the Attic for a not-so-peaceful storytelling extravaganza full of singing, actions and fun props as Vanessa retells this delightful tale.

Finally, we managed to grab Vanessa Woolf who told us a bit about how she adapted Five Minutes' Peace for the family: "Young kids make a great audience. If they like the story, their eyes shine- they lose themselves in the experience. And if they don’t like it, you know straight away! That's why a storyteller has to work to keep the attention of very small wiggly children, especially if they are only just learning how to speak. When I was adapting Five Minutes' Peace for performance, I knew it would need plenty of music, props and interaction. There's something simple and magical about a young child sitting with their adult, all singing and taking part together!  As well as live music, I love using props too. Over the last few months I've been experimenting with some weird and wonderful multi-sensory effects to tickle the imaginations of parents and little ones and bring this classic book to life. It might not be peaceful but it will definitely be fun." Find out about Vanessa Woolf here.

Did you know?

  • Jill Murphy’s debut book The Worst Witch was published in 1974 and sparked a whole series of titles following the school adventures of young witch Mildred Hubble. The series has since been adapted for film and television. Who remembers this from CITV between 1998-2001?

  • Jill Murphy’s many books have won her numerous prizes and awards.  Her first picture book, Peace at Last was commended for the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. The Last Noo-noo (1995), about a small monster called Marlon, won three awards, including the Smarties Book Prize. Five Minutes' Peace won the Best Books for Babies Award and made the shortlist for the Children’s Book Award and now celebrates an impressive 30 years in print.
  • Five Minutes' Peace is one title in a five book series about the much-loved Large Family’s domestic mayhem.  Other books in the series include: A Piece of Cake, All in One Piece, Mr Large in Charge and A Quiet Night In.

The event at Seven Stories coincides with Mother's Day weekend and busy mums, carers, grandparents and dads sympathetic to Mrs Large's search for Five Minutes' Peace are tasked with sharing their photos and videos on Seven Stories' social media sites. Tag us in the posts @7stories #FiveMinutesPeace.

Families can also create their own elephant mask in the Studio this weekend before reading the story for themselves in the Story Station complete with soft toy elephants and mini bath tubs.

Illustration (c) 1986 Jill Murphy. Reproduced by permissions of Walker Books LTD, London SE11 5HJ