Julia Donaldson (Hampstead, London, 74 years old) celebrates 30 years of career as a writer of children’s stories. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in May 2019 for her contribution to English literature and she has not stopped working every day on her children’s stories and shows. “I’m glad to think that my books are one of those texts that bring joy,” the author explains to EL PAÍS.
With more than 13 million copies sold worldwide and translated into 81 languages, the gruffalo (Bruño, 2009) is his most famous story. In it, she tells the myth of David and Goliath through a small and cunning mouse that faces a monster, The Gruffalo, who wants to eat him. And although he assures that he never set out to deal with current issues in his books, the truth is that some of his most successful stories, which have even been turned into animated films, among them The Zog Dragon (2018) or superworm (2021), highlight feminism, the search for personality or tolerance.
ASK. For more than 30 years he has been dedicated to children’s literature. Have readers changed in these three decades?
ANSWER. In all my years of writing, whether it’s stories, songs, poems, or novels, I’ve found that children still enjoy the same kinds of things: adventures, characters to cheer for, and unexpected twists.
Q. He has written more than 20 books that have been read around the world. Did she ever think that he would reach millions of families?
R. It is extraordinary to imagine that my stories are read all over the world. It seems to me a privilege to have a place in so many childhoods and imaginations and to meet families who enjoy the experience of reading books together. Also, I have been able to meet many children at my shows and see how much they enjoy the stories. I am glad to think that my books are one of those that bring joy.
Q. In current children’s literature there is a growing dynamic to publish stories with a recipe to solve problems. Do children need such targeted messages to understand the world?
R. While some trends may come and go, children tend to always enjoy stories that follow an exciting journey, have a few surprises along the way, and a satisfying ending. And of course, illustrations also play an important role in the enjoyment of children’s books.
Q. In his work, he addresses current issues through fiction. Is it something that she has always kept in mind when writing for her readers?
R. I never set out to include current affairs in my books. I only focus on telling the stories that inspire me. Some of my books have larger messages that resonate with the times, like the princess in the dragon zog be a very strong female role model.
Q. In one of his latest stories, he writes the story of two characters who fall in love, but their families do not accept that relationship. Even so, their friendship and their love end up triumphing. The universal themes in literature, are they the ones that continue to excite the most?
R. The Smeds and the Smoos (The Smeds and the Smoos) explores togetherness and the importance of accepting difference. It has some universal themes and this book was inspired, in part, by Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, but with a happy ending! The great themes of literature continue to be reinvented for each era.
Q. Until when should parents choose the stories for their children?
R. I think it’s wonderful that kids get involved in helping choose books as early as they can and that’s why I think libraries are so important. A library is a wonderful place where children can explore and try as many books as they want to find what they really love to read.
Q. the gruffalo It is his most famous story, for which many families begin to read his books. A game between an innocent monster and a very smart mouse. Do children like to play with literature?
R.LChildren are very imaginative and love to play with words. Joy is an important aspect of my work, from my books, where I play with rhyme, language and plot, to my events, where I dramatize my stories on stage. I hope my books encourage children to play and help start a lifelong love of literature.
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