Jill Murphy (born 5 July 1949) is an English 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”
Born in London, Murphy showed an interest in writing and drawing at age six; 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 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.
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. 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. The book was published by Allison & Busby when Murphy was 24 and proved an instant success. Murphy continued working as a nanny until the publication of The Worst Witch Strikes Again prompted her to devote herself to writing full-time.
She gave birth to her son Charlie in spring 1990.
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 3 million copies. They were also made into a successful 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. 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).[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.
In 2007, Murphy received an honorary fellowship from University College Falmouth.