Gruffalo and Superworm author Julia Donaldson says children’s literature deserves more respect | Ents & Arts News

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Author Julia Donaldson told Sky News that children’s literature doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

The writer, better known as the creator of Gruffalo, said she was frustrated by the media’s lack of attention to highlighting the literary choices available to parents.

Donaldson, whose 2012 Superworm book was adapted into a TV animation that airs on Christmas Day, said: “I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves.

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Superworm, narrated by Olivia Colman, airs on Christmas Day. Pic: BBC / Magic Light Pictures

“People always talk about how they want kids not to use so many gadgets, they want kids to be more literate, and yet when you look at reviews of children’s books – which are probably at least one third of the market for all books – in some newspaper supplements you’re lucky if you get just one column. “

The former children’s winner is so prolific that in the UK a Julia Donaldson book is bought every 11 seconds or so. Over the past decade, she has sold over 27 million copies of her work, making her the best-selling author across all age groups or genres.

“I would be dishonest if I didn’t say there was vanity in there,” she admitted. “I think all kids might want to be recognized and famous. I’m sure I was no different from the rest.”

Having written over 210 books, Donaldson is a firm believer in making his work available for free in libraries, saying it is “ridiculous” and “very short-sighted” for advice not to support “these wonderful resources”.

“As far as I know they’re used well by kids, but even if they weren’t, the problem should be, ‘Oh, how do you get them into libraries?’ Not ‘let’s just close the library’. “

Superworm will be the ninth festive special of the work of Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler for the BBC. Reported by Oscar winner Olivia colman, Doctor Who and The Crown star Matt Smith himself voices the main worm.

Author Julia Donaldson with her CBE for services to literature following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, in May 2019
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Author Julia Donaldson received a CBE for services to literature in 2019

While many families are familiar with the story, its memorized words and rhythms, Superworm’s opening rhyme scheme could have looked very different.

“I had a different opening verse,” Donaldson said. “It was going to be ‘Superworm is long and pink, Superworm can grow and shrink,’ because, you know, I wanted him to be able to be a belly dancer or something really big or something.

“But someone said to me, ‘Ahh, Julia, I think there might be, you know, a little bit of a sneer about those lines.” So I changed them [so]there is no such thing as a double meaning. “

Christmas pine.  Photo: Alison Green Books
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The Christmas Pine is Donaldson’s latest story. Photo: Alison Green Books


In addition to having Superworm adapted for television, Donaldson has also released a new book. The Christmas Pine is based on a true story of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, with images by Norwegian illustrator Victoria Sandøy.

The author said she felt honored to play a part in the “healing time” that bedtime stories can offer. “If you’ve had your ups and downs during the day and you hug and share a story, that’s adorable, great to be a part of.”

And while millions of people will tune in to watch Superworm on December 25, that’s not what the author typically would.

“I never used to watch TV when I was a kid and still don’t, I still prefer to play board games,” she said. “But we’re going to sit down and watch Superworm, I’m sure.”

You can watch Superworm on BBC One on Christmas Day at 2:30 p.m. and also stream on BBC iPlayer

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Kehoe Young

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