Julia Donaldson

Literary Birthday – 16 September – Julia Donaldson

Happy Birthday, Julia Donaldson, born 16 September 1948.


  1. [I get 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When I’m writing a rhyming book I start off with a pencil or pen, writing in a big exercise book and doing lots of doodles along the way. If the book isn’t going to rhyme I often write it on the computer.
  4. Two of my great passions are for drama and music. Having come to book-writing via song-writing, I often write in verse, and the sound of the words is as important to me as their sense.

Here is a poem (from Julia’s Crazy Mayonnaisy Mum anthology) to describe that wonderful journey into other worlds that reading takes us on:

‘I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.’

Julia Donaldson is an English writer and playwright. She was the 2011–2013 UK Children’s Laureate. She is best known for her popular rhyming stories for children, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, which include The Gruffalo, A Squash and a Squeeze, and Cave Baby. More than 65 million of her books have been sold worldwide. She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to literature. She was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours.

Source for quotes (1-3) / Source for other quote

Image: Christoph Rieger, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julia_Donaldson.jpg

 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 15th September 2021