Tuesday 17 September 2019

Julia Donaldson hails recognition for writers as she is made a CBE

The author said children’s literature often takes a ‘back seat’ when it comes to awards.

Julia Donaldson is famous for her book The Gruffalo (David Cheskin/PA)
Julia Donaldson is famous for her book The Gruffalo (David Cheskin/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson said she is pleased to be recognised in the New Year Honours because she feels children’s literature often takes a “back seat”.

The 70-year-old has penned a string of hit books, including Stick Man and Room On The Broom, enjoyed by millions of children around the world.

She told BBC Breakfast: “It’s very exciting and very gratifying to be honoured in this way and I’m just pleased for the whole world of children’s literature because often we take a bit of a back seat.

ipanews_c4512a1f-786a-46b7-b388-18489052ac24_embedded27213654
Novelist Philip Pullman has received a knighthood (Steve Parsons/PA)

“And there are other authors, Philip Pullman and Chris Riddell I know they both received honours, so it is very good for the world of children’s books.”

She added: “That is one of our talents as a nation, we are the country that has produced Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, so many wonderful writers, and now of course we have got Harry Potter, but sometimes these writers don’t perhaps get the recognition they deserve, so it’s just nice when some of them can be honoured in this way.”

On receiving the envelope breaking the news of her CBE for services to literature, she said: “You open it and it’s very formal but it tells you you’ve got to keep very quiet about it for about a month, so that has been hard.

“Obviously I told my husband but I think he would have liked to put it on the Christmas cards. I wouldn’t have been so boastful myself as to put it on the Christmas cards, but I think it was a bit hard for him.”

ipanews_c4512a1f-786a-46b7-b388-18489052ac24_embedded211819443
Julia Donaldson with her husband Malcolm after she was made an MBE in 2011 (John Stillwell/PA)

In recent years, adaptations of Donaldson’s picture books have become a staple of the Christmas TV schedules, with the animated films voiced by star-studded casts.

Her clumsy dragon character Zog was brought to the small screen for Christmas Day on BBC One this year.

Donaldson said: “I watched Zog with all seven grandchildren, so that was very special.”

She continued: “With my own grandchildren I don’t tend to read my stories to them, I love reading to them and I will read other people’s stories but I’m terrified if I have one of them on my knee and I’m trying to read them one of my stories and they wriggle and get down, I would probably feel terribly offended so I tend to read other people’s stories.”

Donaldson has previously called for an end to the closure of libraries as she warned younger generations are losing out.

She said: “I also want to take this occasion to highlight how the access of children throughout our country to reading and libraries is endangered with libraries shutting and the jobs of many professional librarians lost.

“This trend needs urgently to be reversed if we want today’s children to have the same opportunities my generation had to become widely-read, informed and imaginative adults.”

Her comments come after an analysis of Government figures revealed libraries in England have had their funding slashed for the fifth year in a row.

The Library Campaign, a national charity, said further cuts to stretched services are “like taking a hammer to a wall that’s already full of holes”.

Donaldson’s other picture books include The Smartest Giant In Town, The Highway Rat, The Snail And The Whale, Tiddler and The Gruffalo’s Child.

Many of the London-born author’s books are illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

ipanews_c4512a1f-786a-46b7-b388-18489052ac24_embedded210918922
The Axel Scheffler illustration of Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo (Axel Scheffler/PA)

Before writing books, Donaldson went busking and then embarked on a career in singing and songwriting, mostly for children’s TV.

She was commissioned to write about “guinea pigs, window-cleaning and horrible smells”.

A typical request from the BBC was: “We want a song about throwing crumpled-up wrapping paper into the bin,” she writes on her website.

Her first book was the publication of one of her TV songs, A Squash And A Squeeze, in 1993.

The Gruffalo, about a monster, was her “real breakthrough” in 1999.

The bestselling author, also a playwright, served as Children’s Laureate between 2011 and 2013.

  • Watch more:

PA Media

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top