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Julia Donaldson

Biography

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Julia Donaldson is author of many of today’s best-loved picture books including The Gruffalo and Stick Man. Best known for her collaborations with Axel Scheffler, each of these vivid rhyming stories is a triumph of imagination. She was also the Children’s Laureate 2011-2013.

More about Julia: “I grew up in a tall Victorian London house with my parents, grandmother, aunt, uncle, younger sister Mary and cat Geoffrey (who was really a prince in disguise. Mary and I would argue about which of us would marry him).

Mary and I were always creating imaginary characters and mimicking real ones, and I used to write shows and choreograph ballets for us.

I studied Drama and French at Bristol University, where I met Malcolm, a guitar-playing medic to whom I’m now married.

Before Malcolm and I had our three sons we used to go busking together and I would write special songs for each country; the best one was in Italian about pasta.

The busking led to a career in singing and songwriting, mainly for children’s television.

One of my television songs, A Squash and a Squeeze, was made into a book in 1993, with illustrations by the wonderful Axel Scheffler. It was great to hold the book in my hand without it vanishing in the air the way the songs did. This prompted me to unearth some plays I’d written for a school reading group, and since then I’ve had 20 plays published.

My real breakthrough was The Gruffalo, again illustrated by Axel. We work separately – he’s in London and I’m in Glasgow – but he sends me letters with lovely funny pictures on the envelopes.

My novel The Giants and the Joneses is going to be made into a film by the same team who made the Harry Potter movies, and I have written three books of stories about the anarchic Princess Mirror-Belle who appears from the mirror and disrupts the life of an otherwise ordinary eight-year-old.

When I’m not writing I am often performing, at book festivals and in theatres. I really enjoy getting the children in the audience to help me act out the stories and sing the songs.”

Books by Julia Donaldson

  • The Scarecrows’ Wedding  (Early Reader)

    The Scarecrows’ Wedding (Early Reader)

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  • The Ugly Five

    The Ugly Five

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  • Zog and the Flying Doctors

    Zog and the Flying Doctors

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  • Tyrannosaurus Drip (10th Anniversary Edition)

    Tyrannosaurus Drip (10th Anniversary Edition)

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  • The Detective Dog

    The Detective Dog

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  • The Scarecrows' Wedding (Board Book)

    The Scarecrows' Wedding (Board Book)

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  • Spinderella

    Spinderella

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  • Tabby McTat

    Tabby McTat

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  • Superworm

    Superworm

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  • The Scarecrows' Wedding

    The Scarecrows' Wedding

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Packs featuring Julia Donaldson

  • Room on the Broom x 6

    Room on the Broom x 6

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  • Room on the Broom x 30

    Room on the Broom x 30

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    Price: £209.70
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  • Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler Early Readers Pack x 5

    Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler Early Readers Pack x 5

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  • Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler Pack x 6

    Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler Pack x 6

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  • Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler Early Readers Pack x 5

    Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler Early Readers Pack x 5

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    Price: £24.95
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  • The Gruffalo x 6

    The Gruffalo x 6

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Series by Julia Donaldson

Awards won by Julia Donaldson

Julia has won many major book prizes, including the Smarties and Blue Peter Awards for The Gruffalo, the Blue Peter and Sheffield Children’s Book Prizes for Room on the Broom, the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year for The Gruffalo’s Child and the Red House Award for Super Worm. Julia was also the Children’s Laureate 2011-2013.

Interview with Julia Donaldson

When did you decide to be a writer?

For my fifth birthday, my father gave me a very fat book called “The Book of a Thousand Poems”. I loved it. I read the poems, recited them, learnt them, and then started making up some of my own. Although I wanted to be a poet all those years ago, I later decided I would rather go on the stage. That didn’t quite work out, so I did other jobs – teaching and publishing. But somehow I’ve ended up doing what I wanted to do when I was five years old. I have a theory that this happens to quite a lot of people.

When did you start to write books?

In 1993, when one of my songs, “A Squash and a Squeeze” was made into a book. Before that I just wrote songs for children’s television.

Where do you get your ideas?

Anywhere and everywhere: things that happen to my children; memories of my own childhood; things people say; places I go to; old folk tales and fairy stories. The hard part for me is not getting the idea, it is turning it into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

How long does it take to write a book?

It can take months or years for the idea to grow in my head and for me to plan the book. This is a very important part. Then, when I am ready it could take anything between a week (for a picture book) and six months (for a chapter book) to write it. For THE GRUFFALO the ideas and planning stage lasted a year (obviously I was doing other things too!) and the actual writing took about two weeks.

Where do you write?

In my head when I’m in the bath or out for a walk. (I do have my own study, too, and sometimes I write on trains or in the library.)

Where did the inspiration for the Gruffalo come from?

The book was going to be about a tiger but I couldn’t get anything to rhyme with “tiger”. Then I thought up the lines: “Silly old Fox, doesn’t he know/There’s no such thing as a ___ ” and somehow the word “gruffalo” came to mind to fill the gap. The gruffalo looks the way he does because various things that just happened to rhyme (like toes and nose, and black and back)

Which one of your books is your favourite?

It keeps changing. At the moment I have two: “The Snail and the Whale” for younger children and “The Giants and the Joneses” for older ones.

What is your favourite book (not by you)?

One of my favourites is “Watership Down” by Richard Adams, an exciting story about rabbits.