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Julia Donaldson webchat, Wednesday 28 August, 9-10pm

(180 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 23-Aug-13 09:48:19

We're thrilled that acclaimed author and former Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson is our webchat guest on Wed 28 August.

A Squash and a Squeeze, The Gruffalo, Zog, Room on the Broom, Tiddler and a host of other best-loved books have endeared her to countless children.

Her latest book is The Further Adventures of The Owl and the Pussy-cat, in which she revisits Edward Lear's favourite rhyme, with beautiful illustrations by Charlotte Voake.

So, if you're a fan, please grab a glass or a cuppa and come and chat to Julia about her writing at 9pm on Wednesday.

And if you can't make the webchat itself, do post a question in advance.

As a taster, take a peek at this exclusive new Mumsnet video of Julia, and her husband Malcolm, singing their brand new Owl and the Pussy-cat song. (There are on-screen lyrics if you want to use it as a sing-a-long with little 'uns.)

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:20:36


Did you enjoy Tiddler on Monday?

I think that TIDDLER AND OTHER TERIFFIC TALES is a wonderful show (by the company Scamp who also brought STICK MAN to the stage.) They are so energetic and creative.

MmeLindor Wed 28-Aug-13 21:20:38

Thank you for your reply, Julia. My kids will be very impressed that I 'chatted' to you online.

Isn't it a shame that so many of us didn't know that you have written books for older readers? I will certainly be looking at the books you mentioned for my preteens.

SucksFake Wed 28-Aug-13 21:22:15

I'll have to try a Welsh accent when I'm reading that one too then! Fred from Tabby McTat is always Scottish when I'm reading! Thank you for all the joy you have brought with bedtime stories.

kh137 Wed 28-Aug-13 21:22:16


I've just started writing a few stories to share with my three year old son. Any tips for turning these into a book and getting published? Thanks

TheHandbagOfGlory Wed 28-Aug-13 21:22:48

Thank you for replying.

It's lovely to be able to say thank you to you for your characters and stories, in "real life" I wouldn't get a chance to do that smile

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:24:22


Hi Julia,

We love your books in this house, you are easily our favourite author in the world smile

Will there be another Christmas cartoon made of one of your books this year? We have all 3 on DVD, as well as the books and love watching them, then reading the stories.

I'm glad you enjoyed the animations. My own favourite was ROOM ON THE BROOM. Sadly there won't be a new one next Christmas, as the producers are concentrating on promoting the books and films in America. (Do help if you can, everyone!) But there might be a new one in 2014 - fingers crossed.

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:27:00


I would love to know where Julia gets her inspiration from, since so many of her characters are the underdogs and not "the usual" characters for children, like Superworm (which is our favourite) and the Highway Rat, not to mention the Gruffalo, what inspires her when creating a new main character?

In creating a new character I sometimes just scratch my head and ask myself "Who haven't I done yet?" But occasionally a picture inspires me. (This was the case in THE PAPER DOLLS.) And for THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE OWL AND THE PUSSY-CAT it was a request from a publisher for a sequel.

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:27:57



I've just started writing a few stories to share with my three year old son. Any tips for turning these into a book and getting published? Thanks

It's a good idea to get THE CHILDREN'S WRITERS' AND ARTISTS' YEAR BOOK which is full of tips and contact details.

tinyangel Wed 28-Aug-13 21:28:12

We love 'jack and the flum flum tree', i particularly love reading it as it has a lovely rhthym. Were you on a train writing this??!!

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:29:07


Just another thank you here. My DDs always pick up a stick to carry when we go out walking - and then return it 'to the family tree' when we come home.

My own children used to love playing with sticks, which is probably what inspired STICK MAN. And lots of children tell me they've seen Stick Man in the woods. (I think he's a bit easier to find than the Gruffalo.)

tinyangel Wed 28-Aug-13 21:29:20

rhythm :-)

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:30:55


We love 'jack and the flum flum tree', i particularly love reading it as it has a lovely rhthym. Were you on a train writing this??!!

I like this question! Actually I often do bits of writing on trains, but the bath is the main place where I get inspiration and solve problems. Have you heard the JACK AND THE FLUMFLUM TREE song yet? It's quite a catchy calypso but was very hard to memorise!

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:32:50


In the same vein as the feminist questions, but not a question as I've already asked mine (!), I was very sad when I realised that in the publicity for a Christmas showing of the Gruffalo's Child here in France, they clearly called the Child a "he". Such unthinking sexism sad

I've not read the book in French (and didn't in the end see the film) so I don't know if the translation is correct.

I have read "A Squash and a Squeeze" in German (actually the first one of your books that I read) and the translation is excellent - I prefer it to the English version!

I agree that the German translations are good. Malcolm and I have done 4 tours of Germany, along with Axel, and can recite many of the stories in German. We're now practising ROOM ON THE BROOM in Italian for a performance in a Milan bookshop.

LentilAsAnything Wed 28-Aug-13 21:33:12

Thanks so much for the reply! smile

A cheeky follow-up question if you run out of first-timer questions:

"Usually once a text by a new author has been accepted by the publishers they (the publishers) will suggest an illustator or maybe give a little bit of choice. They often like to pair up someone established with someone less well known."
Would I have much say in the illustrations?

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:35:02


Dear Julia, another thank you from our household too. Tabby McTat is our favourite and i would like to know if he has a Scottish accent, and a stealthy second question, did you have a tune in mind for their favourite song? I have of course made up a tune but i always wonder what the original was.

Yes, there is a tune for the TABBY MCTAT song (though you're welcome to make up your own!) You can hear my tune on the audio version of the book, sung by Imelda Staunton.

tinyangel Wed 28-Aug-13 21:35:15

There's a song for it too?! My ds will be over the moon! Thank you! The illustrations are perfect for the book too.

wheretoyougonow Wed 28-Aug-13 21:36:15

Hi Julia
Thanks for coming on mumsnet. Sorry of this question has already been asked ( my phone is playing up) - will there be a third gruffalo book? My 6 year old is a big fan and we would love another adventure.

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:36:47


How much input did you have on the gruffalo and gruffalos child films?
We love them in our house as well as your books and our DS watched them so much the DVD wore out.

The film-makers were very considerate and did consult me and Axel a lot along the way, though they also came up with lots of ideas of their own.

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:38:25


Hi Julia, when it comes to the illustrations of your books do you work directly with the illustrators to describe how you picture the characters or do they work off the descriptions already within the books ?

Usually we work quite separately. I write a text and send it to the publisher who then shows it to the illustrator. I do get to see the roughs and to comment, but I try not to be too dictatorial.

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:39:38


Hi Julia
Thanks for coming on mumsnet. Sorry of this question has already been asked ( my phone is playing up) - will there be a third gruffalo book? My 6 year old is a big fan and we would love another adventure.

Sorry, I'm not planning a 3rd Gruffalo book, though I do occasionally wonder about the Gruffalo's Granny!

WhatALark Wed 28-Aug-13 21:39:45

Hi Julia, I wish to join in the chorus of parents thanking you for creating such fabulous, entertaining, and well-written books. My son and I greatly enjoy your stories, especially The Snail and the Whale - it's such a beautiful tale!

My question is, other than the magnificent Edward Lear, which authors did you enjoy as a child?

PacificDogwood Wed 28-Aug-13 21:42:32

Julia!! Hi!! <<waves manically>>

No - you don't know me; I am simply unreasonably excited to have found this webchat and am rather star-struck.

I saw you and your husband perform The Stickman at the Goethe Institute in Glasgow several years ago. You were both marvellous and I had to hide the book afterwards because come July I was weary of reading a story with a Christmas (kinda) theme...

So, here's my question: what possessed you and your lovely DH to perform in a foreign language?! So brave, and so fun and a memory I treasure.

Hope you are both very well indeed x.

JuliaDonaldson Wed 28-Aug-13 21:42:37


My 4yo daughter loves JD's books - as does her 8yo brother (still: he loved them when he was younger, but still enjoys them and reads them to his sister).

One of my favourite holiday memories is of Norfolk in 2008 when we had the CDs of Gruffalo, Snail and the Whale and the rest playing in the car the whole time. Soundtrack to the summer!

Looking forward to reading the new Owl and the Pussycat book.

So glad you enjoyed the audios. I'm quite excited that for THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE OWL AND THE PUSSY-CAT they are going to let me (and my husband Malcolm) do the audio version.

VivClicquot Wed 28-Aug-13 21:43:40

Hello Julia,

More fans of all your stories here. My 2 year old can recite the whole of the Gruffalo, Gruffalo's Child but her absolute favourite is the Paper Dolls. I wish you could see her running around the house singing "They were Ticky and Tacky and Jackie..." smile

Anyway, my question is that some of your stories have quite dark passages in - I'm thinking specifically of the Paper Dolls where the little boy cuts the dolls into thousands of tiny pieces. Is it hard to strike the balance between having an 'edge' to your stories and the traditional 'happy ever after' ending of most children's stories?

AllSWornOut Wed 28-Aug-13 21:43:43

Thank you for answering my question - I didn't know there were audio book versions available, almost-3 year old DS will be over the moon smile

If you run out of first questions may I ask which foreign languages have translated the best and worst?

As mentioned below, "A squash and a squeeze" is fantastic in German, whereas I personally think that the German version of the Gruffalo is missing something compared to the English version. However my PIL get immense pleasure reading the foreign versions so the general story and rhythms seem to translate well.

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