Julia Donaldson

Children's Laureate 2013-11

Julia Donaldson has worked with many different illustrators and written over a hundred books and plays for children and teenagers, in which her love of song and rhyme shines through. 

Why she wants you singing as well as reading

Julia Donaldson worked for a few years in publishing and as a teacher, while also writing and performing songs and street theatre with her husband Malcolm, and writing and directing two musicals for children. She then combined a career writing songs for children’s television with bringing up a family.

In 1993, one of her songs was made into a book, A Squash and a Squeeze. Since then, she has written over a hundred books and plays for children and teenagers, including the award-winning rhyming stories The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale and Zog, all illustrated by Axel Scheffler, which are among the UK’s best-selling picture books.

Julia has also worked with different illustrators, among them Lydia Monks, Nick Sharratt and David Roberts, and has written several young fiction titles, including three books about Princess Mirror-Belle, who is the badly-behaved reflection of a well-behaved girl. Her novel for teenagers, Running on the Cracks, came out in 2009 and won the Nasen Inclusive Children’s Book Award.

Julia is also the author of many educational books, including the 60 books that comprise the phonic reading scheme Songbirds. This series is part of the Oxford Reading Tree, published by Oxford University Press.

Julia still loves writing and singing songs, and has produced three books of these, each one with a CD on which she is accompanied by some great live musicians. Her passion for drama is kept fresh by her frequent dramatic performances at book festivals and theatrical events, where she talks, acts and sings with her audiences.

Julia is patron of the charity Artlink Central, which engages artists to work in hospitals, prisons and schools.

Goals as Waterstones Children's Laureate

In June 2011, Julia wrote in her first post for the Laureate blog:

'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. I’ve always enjoyed performing my own stories and songs, and have observed how most children also love acting and singing, which do wonders for their self-confidence...
Another area I plan to involve myself in is stories for deaf children. This is partly because I have a hearing problem myself, and also because I’m fascinated by sign language (even though I’ve never learnt it) and love to watch stories being acted out so expressively by signers.
I will also be vociferous in the campaign to promote libraries and halt the cuts and closures which as I see as so damaging to our children and their future.'

While Children's Laureate, Julia Donaldson went on to develop an anthology called Poems to Perform: a collection of poems which could be recited by more than one voice. She also created a series of 60 short classroom plays, with parts for six characters. These 'playlets' were specially written by Julia and other top children’s authors, and designed to help children in primary school become more confident and expressive readers.

Some books by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo

Author: Julia Donaldson Illustrator: Axel Scheffler

In this much-loved picture book, a little mouse walks through the woods and encounters a fox, an owl and a snake.

Read more about The Gruffalo

The Snail and the Whale

The Snail and the Whale

Author: Julia Donaldson Illustrator: Axel Scheffler

This book by the award-winning Gruffalo partnership is about a tiny snail who longs to see the world, and the enormous grey-blue humpback whale who gives him a lift on his tail.

Read more about The Snail and the Whale

Tabby McTat

Tabby McTat

Author: Julia Donaldson Illustrator: Axel Scheffler

A poetic story of love, adventure and music that demands to be read aloud or possibly sung, depending on the power of the reader's purr.

Read more about Tabby McTat

In this section

Sing as well as read

Did you know that before she started writing books, Julia Donaldson was a songwriter? While Children's Laureate, she continued to promote telling stories with rhythm and rhyme.

Former Laureates

Take a look at our League of Laureates: nine star authors and illustrators who have previously held the role.

Search books by Julia Donaldson