15 Things You Didn’t Know about Julia Donaldson

Are you a fan of The Gruffalo, A Squash and a Squeeze or The Snail & The Whale? Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know about their author Julia Donaldson:

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#1. Julia grew up in a tall terraced Victorian London house with her parents, grandmother, aunt, uncle, younger sister Mary and cat Geoffrey.

#2. Julia and her sister Mary used to argue about who would marry Geoffrey (who was really a prince in disguise).

#3. Julia and Mary used to create imaginary characters and Julia used to write shows and choreograph ballets for them.

#4. Julia used to own a wind-up gramophone that wafted out Chopin waltzes.

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#5. Julia studied Drama and French at Bristol University. She met her future husband Malcolm, a guitar-playing medic there.

#6. Before she and her husband Malcolm had their family, they used to go busking together. Julia would write special songs for each country; the best one was in Italian about pasta.

#7. After busking, Julia had a career for a while in singing and songwriting, mainly for children’s television.

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#8. Julia also wrote “grown-up” songs and performed them in folk clubs and on the radio. She recently released two CDs of these songs.

squash and a squeeze#9. One of her television songs, A Squash and a Squeeze, was made into a book in 1993, with illustrations by Axel Scheffler. Axel (also the illustrator of The Gruffalo) sends Julia letters with lovely funny pictures on the envelopes.

#10. She has had 20 plays published.

#11. Julia really enjoys writing verse, “even though it can be fiendishly difficult”.

#12. She used to memorise poems as a child and it means a lot to Julia when parents tell her that their child can recite one of her books.

running on the cracks#13. She finds it harder to write not in verse now but she has written lots of stories now that aren’t in verse, such as the ones about the anarchic Princess Mirror-Belle who appears from the mirror and disrupts the life of an otherwise ordinary eight-year-old.

#14. Julia has written a novel for teenagers called Running on the Cracks.

#15. When she’s not writing she is often performing at book festivals and in theatres. She really enjoys getting the children in the audience to help act out the stories and sing the songs.

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Here is a Day in Julia’s Life:

Tea in bed. Second cup.
Dislodge cats. Get up.
Son to school. Spouse to work.
Sit at desk – mustn’t shirk.
Scratch head. Dream up snail.
Maybe team her up with whale?
Chew pen. What next?
Can’t think. Feel vexed.
Feed cats. Open post.
Read it, over slice of toast.
Little boy wants to know
the gruffaloDate of birth of Gruffalo.
Little girl wonders why
Giant gave away his tie.
Out to shops. Get idea
(Big grin, ear to ear):
Brilliant climax – whale gets beached!
(Rhyme a problem . . . reached? Beseeched?
Leeched? Well never mind, just now.)
Snail then rescues whale – but how???
Back home, get stuck.
Go off snail. Consider duck.
Phone rings. Who is it?
School, requesting author visit.
Check diary . . . shocked to see
“Monday, Brookwood Library”.
That’s today! Leap in car.
Thank goodness, not far.
Tell a story, act and sing.
Kids join in with everything.
(Teacher sits there marking books,
Blind to my accusing looks.)
Answer questions. Back to house.
Joined by son, later spouse.
Open bottle. Cook salmon.
Practise piano. Play Backgammon.
Have bath – that’s when
Inspiration strikes again:
Snail could learn to write with slime!
(Quite an easy word to rhyme.)
Crawls on blackboard, leaves a trail . . .
Children run and save the whale.
Story planned! Tomorrow, start
Writing it – the easy part.

Over to you now. Did you enjoy this fact file on Julia Donaldson? Tell us in the comments below.

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls