David McKee, the bestselling children’s author and creator of Elmer and Mr Benn, has died aged 87.
The news was confirmed by his publisher Andersen Press, who says he died at his home in the South of France after a short illness.
A spokesperson released a statement, which read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of David McKee, beloved author and illustrator for children, and creator of iconic children’s books Elmer, Not Now, Bernard and Mr Benn.”
“All at Andersen Press hope his spirit lives on for many more generations through his joyful, heartfelt stories,” they added.
Andersen Press founder Klaus Flugge also said: “I am devastated by the sudden death of my best friend, David McKee. He was as close to Andersen Press as I am. He was there from the very beginning and essential to the origin of the company. He became great friends with everyone he encountered; staff, authors and illustrators alike.”
McKee is best known for Elmer, which was first published in 1968, and later became one of the most popular children’s books in the world.
McKee wrote 29 Elmer books, which have sold over 10 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 60 languages. The books have also been turned into an animated series, a stage play and a wide range of merchandise including soft toys.
Another of McKee’s most popular creations, Mr Benn, was turned into a TV series. It is said that McKee based the suit and bowler hat-wearing character on Charlie Chaplin.
McKee was born in Devon and later went on to study art in Plymouth. His writing career led to him travelling the world and spending considerable time in Italy, France and Spain.
In his later years, McKee split his time between the UK and France with his partner, Bakhta.
His son, Chuck, is also a children’s author.