Author Sam McBratney, who wrote the classic children’s bedtime story Guess How Much I Love You, has died, it has been confirmed.
Mr Bratney, who was born in Belfast, was aged 77, his publisher Walker Books said.
His 1994 picture book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 57 languages worldwide.
It tells the story of two nutbrown hares – one older, one younger – as they declare their affection for one another. It ends with the phrase “I love you right up to the moon – and back”.
McBratney described his book as “a lighthearted little story designed to help a big one and a wee one enjoy the pleasure of being together”.
A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Mr McBratney was a history teacher before he became an author full-time. He wrote more than 50 books for children and young adults.
His publisher announced on Monday that Mr McBratney died last Friday.
Karen Lotz, group managing director of Walker Books Group, described Mr McBratney as 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,” she said.
“Amazingly humble, he also was a hilarious storyteller and convivial companion.”
His death comes ahead of the publication next month of a sequel to Guess How Much I Love You, titled Will You Be My Friend?.
His other works include the historical novel The Chieftain’s Daughter, The Lough Neah Monster and School Trip to the Stars.
Mr McBratney is survived by his wife of 56 years, Marilyn, three children and six grandchildren.