THE author of Guess How Much I Love You has died aged 77 – as tributes pour in for the "hilarious storyteller".
Sam McBratney's heartwarming picture story found a place in many family homes for bedtime reading.
The Irish children's author died on Friday, two weeks before the publication of Will You Be My Friend?.
His latest work is a companion to the 1994 classic, which sold more than 50million copies and was translated into 57 languages.
Devastated parents commented how much they are their children loved the classic tale.
One person wrote: "Such a wonderful book, that I read many times to my children and those I had the privilege of working with.
"Thank you for such a wonderful book, my thoughts are with those who new and loved Sam."
And another said: "Wow. My mum used to read me Guess How Much I Love You every night before I went to sleep as a child. Rest in peace."
Karen Lotz, group managing director of Walker Books Group, said: "Sam McBratney was a profoundly lovely human being.
"You could recognise his voice in a moment he was an exceptionally talented wordsmith and always knew exactly what children would enjoy hearing the most.
"Amazingly humble, he also was a hilarious storyteller and convivial companion.
McBratney would call his famous book a story designed to "help a big one and a wee one enjoy the pleasure of being together".
With illustrations by Anita Jeram, Guess How Much I Love You tells of older and younger nutbrown hares – presumed to be father and son – and their game of one-upmanship as each declares his feelings for the other.
McBratney is survived by his wife of 56 years, Marilyn; three children and six grandchildren
A native of Belfast and a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, McBratney was a history teacher who wrote more than 50 books even though he didn't become a full-time writer until middle age, when he retired from teaching.
His other works include the historical novel The Chieftain's Daughter, The Lough Neah Monster and School Trip to the Stars.
Many of his books were inspired by his children, grandchildren, history or his local community.
His debut novel, Mark Time, was a pre-adolescent love story set in Northern Ireland. He wrote Guess How Much I Love You after his publisher suggested he try a picture story.
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