Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Julia Donaldson: A writer with a quick ear

New children's laureate demonstrates her deft rhyming abilities with poem celebrating the seven previous holders of the post

Photo Murdo Macleod.

Julia Donaldson, the author of The Gruffalo and numerous other best-selling picture books, accepted the children's laureate medal for 2011-13 with a poem celebrating her seven illustrious children's laureate predecessors.
Working through them, she broke off from reciting the poem to tell the audience that, surprisingly, finding a rhyme for Jacqueline Wilson was harder than for Michael Morpurgo, but by the end all, including herself, were gracefully folded in to an entertaining and sharply observant verse.

Donaldson has been delighting pre-school children and, as importantly, their parents with her humorous rhyming texts for the past 18 years. She has a quick ear for interesting and creative rhyme which she has adapted and perfected and which she uses to great dramatic effect. Despite their brevity and their light touch, her stories are satisfying; fear, pathos, celebration – all are vividly played out most famously in The Gruffalo which has sold over 5m copies and been adapted into numerous different formats from buggy book to animated film.

But The Gruffalo is not alone in reaching an exceptionally large audience; Donaldson's most recent book, Zog, winner of the Galaxy national book award, has sold 200,000 hardback copies in the UK since September. That's a lot of children enjoying books; a good news story in the face of national concerns about literacy proving that good books find readers because they are enjoyable.
To have a children's laureate whose skill lies in appealing to pre-school children who, once hooked by what books offer, are more likely to enjoy reading and become readers for life, is an invaluable asset in the UK's efforts to improve national standards of literacy.
For this reason – in addition to the vivacity and purpose of her books, for which she has been brilliantly matched by illustrators such as Axel Scheffler who created the Gruffalo illustrations as well as many others including Nick Sharratt, Lydia Monks and David Roberts – Julia Donaldson brings a new angle to this important national role.

Julia Donaldson's books – in pictures
Most famous for The Gruffalo, the new children's laureate has worked on many different stories, with numerous different illustrators. Take a look at some of them 

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