About: Julia Donaldson

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Time to look at another one of my favourite authors: Julia Donaldson. She is, in fact, one of my all-time favourite authors of children’s books thanks to, of course, The Gruffalo which I reviewed earlier.

Julia is an English writer, playwright and performer who is best known for her rhyming stories for children like The Gruffalo. She actually started out as a writer of songs for children’s television shows. When one of her songs was made into a book, it was such a big success that she decided to focus on writing books full-time. She has published over 60 books, which are all widely available in bookshops. She also published over 100 works which are exclusively for use in schools.

But who is this creature with terrible claws
And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws?
He has knobbly knees, and turned-out toes,
And a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.
His eyes are orange, his tongue is black,
He has purple prickles all over his back.

The Gruffalo is by far her most popular work, which was an immediate success and won several awards. It has been translated into more than 40 languages and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. It has also been adapted for the stage and the big screen. Within days of sending the manuscript to the publisher, she received several publishing requests and offers.

When did you decide to be a writer? (source)

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.

Where do you get your ideas? (source)

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.

Where did the inspiration for the Gruffalo come from? (source)

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).

How long does it take to write a book? (source)

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.

Do you like being an author? (source)

I find the actual writing quite hard work. I often get stuck, or feel that I’m plodding along in an uninspired way. But when I realise that a story is working after all it’s a very exciting feeling – and I love doing all the polishing touches at the end (or “tweaking” as publishers call it). It’s lovely when the first rough illustrations arrive and I see how my characters are going to look.

Did you have any didactic intent with your books or were you happy for them to be just lively and funny? (source)

“I don’t set out to be didactic, but they probably won’t be good stories if they’re just adventures. I like to think I’ve got good moral principles, so they’re likely to come out in the writing, but I don’t think to myself, ‘I wish children would share more – maybe I should write a story where children share’… Although I have written some stories with ‘messages’. Freddie and the Fairy is about lip-reading – the fairy gets all the wishes wrong because she can’t hear properly. And The Paper Dolls is about bereavement and coming to terms with loss.

Happy reading,

Loes M.

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