Good Reading : July 2007
18 goodreading ı JULY 2007 When I first meet Julia Donaldson, I can immediately see her as a little girl, twirling her finger in her hair, looking up and off to the side, as she does while chatting to me about her life. As I listen to her telling me about herself and her sister climbing the big trees on London’s Hampstead Heath or choreographing ballets to music on 78 rpm records on the old wind-up gramophone, pirouetting around the house performing to family, friends and neighbours, I marvel at how we grow up to be adult versions of ourselves as a child. Julia grew up in a house that was always full of people. ‘We had an extended family in a tall terrace house. My granny had the top floor [where Julia used to pore over granny’s lovely Edward Lear books], my uncle and aunt had the middle floor and my family had the ground floor.They were self contained places; we didn’t always eat together around the table.’ She puts her happy childhood partly down to the fact that it was so secure. ‘I think then there wasn’t quite so much taking the children everywhere.We went to ballet and Brownies but we just walked; even at night we walked back home ourselves, or we’d get on a bus to our piano lessons.We weren’t always chaperoned.’ Her father loved music and played the cello with amateur quartets who would come to play in the house. He did psychiatric research on twins. ‘In those days, many poorer families couldn’t afford to bring up twins and it was quite common to separate them at birth. Perhaps someone in the town would bring up one of them, someone completely different. My father studied a number of twins who had been brought up together, and the same number of pairs who were identical but had been brought up apart. In quite a lot of cases, through his study, the separated twins met. And often they’d find they were wearing the same Marks & Spencer jumper or something; they had quite similar tastes even though they’d had very different upbringings. So his studies showed that genetics had a big play in it all the time.’ Julia had a desire to write from a young age.When she was six her father gave her a copy of The Book of a Thousand Poems, which she loved to death, learning the poems by heart and reciting them. ‘I used to write little poems too, and decided that’s what I wanted to do.Then I got very stagestruck when gruffalo girl Much-loved author of children’s books, creator of the one and only Gruffalo, JULIA DONALDSON tells ROWENA CSEH about her busy life acting, singing, dancing, travelling … and, of course, writing.