Author of the month @DPS
At Deanshanger Primary School we strive to promote the love of reading within our children.
To be a fluent reader is not only a necessary life skill, but one of life’s greatest pleasures. Books are a gateway for children and adults to explore new worlds, learn about the past, spark imaginations and develop critical thinking skills. Children should learn that reading is also a way to relax therefore an important mental health tool.
To ensure our children read a rich variety of books and an opportunity to learn about different writers and genres, we have launched Author of the Month.
Each month is dedicated to a different author. This is promoted in class as well as our school library, where children are able to borrow books written by the author.
Julia grew up in a tall terraced Victorian London house with her parents, grandmother, aunt, uncle, younger sister Mary and cat Geoffrey (who was really a prince in disguise. Mary and Julia would argue about which of them would marry him). Mary and Julia were always creating imaginary characters and mimicking real ones, and she used to write shows and choreograph ballets for them. A wind-up gramophone wafted out Chopin waltzes.
She studied Drama and French at Bristol University, where she met Malcolm, a guitar-playing medic to whom she is now married.
Busking and books
Before Malcolm and Julia had their family, they used to go busking together and would write special songs for each country; the best one was in Italian about pasta.
The busking led to a career in singing and songwriting, mainly for children’s television. Julia became an expert at writing to order on such subjects as guinea pigs, window-cleaning and horrible smells. “We want a song about throwing crumpled-up wrapping paper into the bin” was a typical request from the BBC.
She also continued to write “grown-up” songs and perform them in folk clubs and on the radio.
One of her television songs, A SQUASH AND A SQUEEZE, was made into a book in 1993, with illustrations by the wonderful Axel Scheffler. She said "It was great to hold the book in my hand without it vanishing in the air the way the songs did. This prompted me to unearth some plays I’d written for a school reading group, and since then I’ve had 20 plays published. Most children love acting and it’s a tremendous way to improve their reading."
Her real breakthrough was THE GRUFFALO, again illustrated by Axel. They work separately - he’s in London and Julia in Glasgow - but he sends her letters with lovely funny pictures on the envelopes.
She really enjoys writing verse, even though it can be fiendishly difficult. Julia used to memorise poems as a child and it means a lot to Julia when parents tell her their child can recite one of my books.
Funnily enough, she finds it harder to write not in verse, though she feels she is now getting the hang of it! THE GIANTS AND THE JONESES is a novel for 7-11 year olds, and she has written three books of stories about the anarchic PRINCESS MIRROR-BELLE who appears from the mirror and disrupts the life of an otherwise ordinary eight-year-old. For teenagers there is a novel called RUNNING ON THE CRACKS.
When Julia's not writing she is often performing, at book festivals and in theatres. "I really enjoy getting the children in the audience to help me act out the stories and sing the songs. When Malcolm can take time off from the hospital he and his guitar come too, it feels as if we’ve come full circle - back to busking"
Find out more at http://www.juliadonaldson.co.uk