Sam McBratney, author of the children’s classic book Guess How Much I Love You, has died at the age of 77.
The author, who was born in Belfast, died on 18 September, his publisher Walker Books announced on Monday.
The tale of two nutbrown hares, who try to express their affection for each other, became a children’s classic.
The book is best remembered for ending with the now well-known phrase “I love you to the moon and back”.
The illustrated children’s book, which was first published in 1994, was translated into 57 languages and sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.
A sequel to Guess How Much I Love You – titled Will You Be My Friend? – is due to be published later this month.
‘Lovely human being’
McBratney, who graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, was a teacher before becoming a full-time author.
He was the author of more than 50 books, but was best known for his tale about the two affectionate nutbrown hares.
Karen Lotz, managing director of Walker Books Group, described 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,” Ms Lotz said.
“His legacy of kindness and humour will burn bright and carry on through his stories,” she added.