Children’s author and illustrator Babette Cole has died aged 67, her publisher at Mabecron Books, Ron Johns, has confirmed.
Johns said Cole passed away on Saturday (14th January) in hospital after being admitted the previous week with a collapsed lung.
Born in 1950, Cole was a creator of picture books and was best known for Princess Smartypants (Puffin), first published in 1986, which was a feminist retelling of a traditional fairy tale romance. Her other books included Mummy Laid an Egg! (Red Fox Picture Books), The Smelly Book (Red Fox) and The Trouble With Mum (Mammoth).
In 2014 she released The Wild West Country Tale of James Rabbit and the Giggleberries, which was based on her “muse” James Gutans, with Johns’ publishing imprint Mabecron Books.
Johns, who also owns a mini-chain of bookshops including the Falmouth Bookseller and the Padstow Bookseller, said Cole was a "delightful person" and a "comic genius".
"In some ways she was as mad as a box of frogs but always very professional," he said. "She always submitted her artwork on time. She was completely irreverent and loved challenging authority."
Several authors and illustrators have paid tribute to Cole on social media, with illustrator Sarah McIntyre tweeting: “A sad day. I'm going to miss grande dame of picture books Babette Cole and her anarchic, irrepressible humour. She lived by her own set of rules; I was a bit scared of her, she might say or do anything, but I loved her, too. She was a flash of bright colour in the world of books, and probably one of the people I saw most often at festivals and parties. She often left me dizzy and bewildered, but always laughing.”
Author Philip Reeve said on Twitter he was “very sad to hear about the death of Babette Cole, a brilliant illustrator and a proper Devon eccentric”, while author Michael Rosen tweeted: “She was a brilliant writer, artist and illustrator.”
In summer 2015 Cole was injured in a cow stampede near her home in Devon which left her with fractured shoulders and ribs.