Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, best known for 1978 classic The Snowman, has died aged 88.
His family said in a statement through his publisher Penguin Random House that Briggs died on Tuesday morning.
The Snowman has sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world, and Briggs also created beloved children’s books Father Christmas, Fungus The Bogeyman and When The Wind Blows.
An animated version of The Snowman created for Channel 4 in 1982 has become a festive staple and has been shown every Christmas since.
Briggs’ family said: “We know that Raymond’s books were loved by and touched millions of people around the world, who will be sad to hear this news.
“Drawings from fans – especially children’s drawings – inspired by his books were treasured by Raymond and pinned up on the wall of his studio.
“He lived a rich and full life, and said he felt lucky to have had both his wife Jean and his partner of over 40 years Liz in his life.
“He shared his love of nature with Liz on South Downs walks and on family holidays to Scotland and Wales.
“He also shared his sense of fun and craziness with his family, and with his family of artist friends – at get-togethers, fancy dress parties and summer picnics in the garden.
“He played practical jokes and enjoyed them being played on him.
“All of us close to him knew his irreverent humour – this could be biting in his work when it came to those in power. He liked The Guardian editorial describing himself as an ‘iconoclastic national treasure’.”
Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said: “Raymond’s books are picture masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, speaking to both adults and children with a remarkable economy of words and illustrations.
“Raymond is probably best known for The Snowman. He needed greater freedom perhaps than the standard 32-page picture book format allowed and created a radical and beautiful innovation: a wordless picture book for children, a storyboard of stills that became an instant classic in its own right, as well as the much-loved animation.”
Ms Dow said Briggs was “unique” and “inspired generations of creators of picture books, graphic novels and animations”.
She added: “He leaves an extraordinary legacy, and a big hole.”
Briggs’ literary agent, Hilary Delamere, said: “Raymond liked to act the professional curmudgeon, but we will remember him for his stories of love and of loss.
“I know from the many letters he received how his books and animations touched people’s hearts.”