Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Julia Donaldson's Favourite Books

'You can never have too many books'

The person who said that had clearly not been to my house! I am desperate to instill a love of reading into my son but having collapsed two out of the three shelves of his bookcase with too many stories I'm having to take a step back and let the library take the strain for a while. Today though I am making an exception. We are eagerly waiting for the postman to arrive with the latest book from the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler stable which has just been released!

Zog, who you can see above, is an accident prone dragon who's facing a tough test, capturing a princess. Can a mysterious little girl help him with it? As with The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale and Stickman I'm really excited to add a new rhyming story to our pile. Even though, as a Northern family, Julia's prose doesn't always scan correctly (however hard I try I can't rhyme scarf and laugh) the twosome's books are amongst our most beloved. In fact I know some of them off by heart I've read them so many times.

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to meet Julia as part of a talk she did locally for teachers and parents. Massive thanks go to the friend who told me about it. I didn't really know what to expect, but she (Julia, not the friend) didn't disappoint.

We heard a little about her student life, including time spent busking on the streets of Paris with her future husband Malcolm, and how once back in the UK she began to write songs for BBC children's radio and television programmes. Although I'm not sure she's up there with John Lennon, a Squash and a Squeeze (based on a traditional folk tale) is certainly very catchy. Julia told how an agent approached her and asked whether the song could be turned into a book. Axel drew the pictures and the rest was history. Then came the fun part, Julia picked members of the audience to act out the different parts (yes, including the animals) and sang the whole lot for us. She was most particular about the actors too, the goat was chastised for not pretend-eating the table leg with sufficient gusto!

Later Julia talked about the books that had inspired her to become a writer. I found this particularly fascinating and thought that you might do too!

Dogger, by Shirley Hughes


I love this book and have posted about it before, including here. Julia said she particularly likes the story because Dave's love for his toy dog is universal and that parents and children everywhere can empathise with it. I agree, not least because it was loved by my sister and I in our childhood and is equally adored by my children a quarter of a century on!

Mr Magnolia, by Quentin Blake


The tale of a half-shod eccentric, this is is another of our favourites. Julia said she particularly likes the rhyme and the detail in the illustrations, which are classic Blake.

Whose Mouse are You, by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego


I wasn't familiar with this story until Julia mentioned it but being of the sheepy variety I went straight home and ordered it from Amazon. It's the tale of a lonely mouse who has an adventure to bring his family back together again. The illustrations are fabulous, T loves them, especially the page with the cheese feast on it! Julia said she loves the fact that each page has a cliffhanger on it, with a genuine surprise when you turn over.

Would you rather ..., by John Burningham


Unlike 'Whose Mouse' I had heard of this one, although we didn't own a copy and my hazy recollection of having seen the illustrations somewhere before didn't stretch to remembering what it was actually about. Burmingham presents a fantastic selection of options for the reader to choose between, each accompanied by ridiculous illustrations. For example would you rather an elephant drank your bath water, an eagle stole your dinner, a pig tried on your clothes, or a hippo slept in your bed. It is testament to how much fun this is that T refuses to choose any of the pictures, preferring in fact to go for all of them. Julia said she loves the sense of silliness in this one and the insightful snippets of real life too. Would you rather your dad did a dance at school or your mum had a row in a cafe? I can't read that page without cringing!

Towards the end of the talk Julia gave us a sneak peek at Zog. Axel Scheffler's original cover design had been condemned as too boring and a redraw had been ordered. As she left home to come to the talk, an envelope containing the new improved version had plopped onto her doormat. Not having time to open it, Julia brought it with her and opened it on stage in front of the audience, giving us first look at the colourful jacket. I was almost bursting with excitement by this stage.

It sounds a bit hokey to describe Julia Donaldson as one of my heroes, but I have a special place in my heart for someone that's brought genuine joy into my children's bedtimes. I can't wait for her latest book to arrive which I'm sure will be as well-loved as all the others before it.

9 comments:

Mummy Moo said...

Can't belioece youve ordered it. I need to get to Amazon!!!

Zoe said...

It just fell into my shopping basket as well

Emma said...

We have a huge problem with books too....we own a lot!! Julia's books are really cool and she sounds great as well!! What an awesome opportunity!!

恭吳丹恭吳丹 said...

Lets cross the bridge when we come to it............................................................

Kerry said...

Ah we do like a do Julia Donaldson book here as well

凱v胡倫 said...

精彩,thanks!............................................................

x于珊姚于珊姚于珊 said...

這一生中有多少人擦肩而過?而朋友是多麼可貴啊!......................................................................

Sian- Mummy-tips said...

thanks for the comment on my blog. Do you live in Leicester or does your hubby travel for work?

NVT said...

Julia Donaldson is a favourite here too - The Gruffalo is all we've read so far (with me putting on funny voices). Maybe it's the voices the toddler likes and not the book! Never thought of that before...