Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson is new children's laureate

Donaldson plans to promote music and drama and champion libraries during her tenure

Julia Donaldson, creator of the Gruffalo, has been appointed as the new Children's Laureate. 
Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Julia Donaldson, known to millions of unsleepy children and their drooping adult bedtime readers as the creator of the Gruffalo, he of the "terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws", has been appointed the new children's laureate.

"The laureateship is an honour but it's not the kind of honour you can just bask in, so I'm planning to have quite an active two years," she said. "I'm hoping to bring some drama and music to the job. I always act out my own stories with lots of audience participation so I'm planning to do lots more of that. I hope to encourage and inspire children to act stories out, though it's too early to say whether there will be one major theatrical event."

Donaldson becomes the seventh laureate, and was described as "a wonderful choice" by one of her predecessors, the poet Michael Rosen.
"She has written such accessible and brilliant books and she's so clever and funny. She believes in taking her stuff out to kids, and sharing it," he said.

Her immediate predecessor, the illustrator Anthony Browne, left her an open letter urging: "Do everything you can to support libraries – God knows, they need every bit of help they can get nowadays." Everyone, he warned, "will pay the price in the long term" for school and public library closures.
In fact Donaldson, who lives near Glasgow and is the first Scottish-based laureate, needed no urging. In recent months she has flung herself into the campaign to save libraries, leading a protest meeting at the Scottish parliament, signing petitions, and turning up at readings in libraries in Scotland and England.
She is promising even more ardent efforts in her new role.

"I'd love to do a libraries tour from Land's End to John O'Groats," she said. "The children who would come to events in libraries would have been briefed beforehand that they would come to perform something to me, so the first 10 minutes of each session they might perform a class poem they had written or act out a favourite picture book.
"Maybe I'll be able to talk to the minister of culture and persuade the government to have some kind of overall plan because at the moment I feel all the library cuts and closures are very piecemeal, so I'll do what I can," she added.

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