Julia Donaldson is an acclaimed author, playwright & performer whose catalogue features more 180 published works. She published her first book in 1993, & is well known for her collaborations with illustrator Axel Scheffler. In 1999, her most famous tale, The Gruffalo was released, resulting in massive success & establishing her as one of the UK’s most popular & renown children’s writers.
Early Life & Education
Julia was born in London in 1948 & raised in Hampstead. From a young age, she always had a creative mind & would write shows & choreograph ballets with her younger sister.
She attended New End Primary School & then the Camden School for Girls. It was here where she became a great linguist, grasping the likes of French, German & Italian, which transcended into further education. Julia went to Bristol University between 1967-70 to study Drama & French. During her degree, she partook in a number of productions & learnt to play guitar. Here she met Malcolm Donaldson & the pair ventured in Europe where they would busk & write special songs such as the Italian Spaghetti Song. In 1972, the pair wed.
Come the early eighties, the Donaldson’s had welcomed three children, Hamish, Alistair, & Jesse, lived in France, Brighton, Bristol, before settling in Bearsden, Glasgow.
Julia Donaldson originally wrote song for children’s TV. In 1993 she had an epiphany to turn one of the songs she had written into a book with pictures. 1993 saw Julia publish her very first book with German illustrator Axel Scheffler. The release of a Squash & A Squeeze was a monumental point in her life & career. It was from here that she turned her focus from song-writing to story-writing.
Julia Donaldson Creates The Gruffalo
In 1995 a few years after her debut release, The Gruffalo was born. Based on a Chinese tale, the story has been adapted to create a more educational prose, yet maintain the flow & sound of a rhyming story. The Gruffalo is supposedly meant to resemble a buffalo & with the added ‘Grrr’, be a more fearful creature. Donaldson was committed with rhyming to an 'O' sound; originally she found it difficult to write, but was encouraged by her son Alistair, & persisted with the idea. The book was published by Macmillan in 1999.
…..The Gruffalo book was a massive success.Since its initial publication date, the Gruffalo book has been translated into more than 40 languages, sold over 10 million copies, & was turned into an animated film in 2009. It also won a number of prestigious awards on release:
- 1999 Nestle Smarties Book Prize (Gold Award)
- 2000 Blue Peter Best Book to Read Aloud
- 2001 Experian Big Three Award
- 2002 Spoken Book Awards, Children's Audio of the Year
Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler continued to collaborate & found further success with the likes of The Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo’s Child, Stick Man, Zog… All of which have been given the Hollywood treatment & turned into short films.
Children's Laureate & Charity Work
From 2011-2013, she was appointed Children’s Laureate. She set out to encourage children to perform poetry & plays to generate an increased love of reading & books. During her tenure she actively/passionately campaigned against library budget cuts & closures.
Donaldson is a patron of ArtLink Central, of Bookbug; a programme run by the Scottish Book Trust funded by the Scottish Government, which gifts more than 500,000 books to children aged 0–5 in Scotland annually which encourages parents to introduce book & stories to their children. Furthermore, Julia is a patron of Storybook Dads, a UK charity where prisoners send recordings of themselves reading bedtime stories to their children to maintain connections with the kids with imprisoned parents.
She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to literature & later promoted to CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours. Alongside these immense honours Julia Donaldson has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Bristol & University of Glasgow respectively?
Grab Your Julia Donaldson Merchandise
Did you know? We are the official Gruffalo shop… We supply all the goods from your favourites Julia Donaldson stories, including:
With all the original bedtime tales available, soft plush toys of your favourite characters, all the way through to games & more. You may be interested in the commemorative Gruffalo 50p coin which celebrates the Gruffalo’s 20th birthday.
More From The Official Gruffalo Shop
With so much on offer, we even have a special selection of personalised gifts to really amp up the love of Julia Donaldson’s work.
- Personalised mugs from a number of Julia Donaldson stories
- T-shirts featuring your favourite characters
- Lunch boxes for the young fans to take to school