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Julia Donaldson Bio, Life, and Career:
Born Julia Catherine Donaldson Shields on September 16, 1948, Julia Catherine Donaldson Donaldson CBE is a writer and dramatist from England who also holds the position of Children’s Laureate for the years 2011–2013. Her well-known children’s books that are illustrated by Axel Scheffler include The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, and Stick Man. She is most recognized for the popular rhyming stories that she has written for young readers.
She started off creating songs for children’s television, but ever since the lyrics to one of her songs, “A Squash and a Squeeze,” were turned into a children’s book in 1993, she has primarily focused her efforts on writing books instead. Only 64 of her 184 published titles are readily available in bookstores around the country. The remaining 120 are designed for use in educational settings and contain her Songbirds phonic reading scheme, which is included in the Oxford Reading Tree published by Oxford University Press.
Donaldson was raised in Hampstead, London, alongside her younger sister, Mary, from the time of their birth. The family lived in a Victorian home with three levels close to Hampstead Heath during the time. On the ground floor, she shared her home with her parents, sister, and the family cat, Geoffrey. Her aunt and uncle, along with their children James and Kate, lived on the first story, and her grandmother resided on the second floor.
Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Donaldson’s parents, James (often known as Jerry) and Elizabeth met one another. The war then kept them apart for a period of six years. Jerry, who had attended Oxford University and studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics there, was a prisoner of war for most of the war. Because of his proficiency in German, he was given the opportunity to work as an interpreter in the camp. While this was going on, Elizabeth, who was also a proficient German speaker and had a degree in languages, served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service.
After the war, they were able to get back together and eventually get married. In 1950, the couple, along with Jerry’s mother, his sister Beta and her husband Chris (whom the two men had met in the POW camp), purchased the Hampstead house. After contracting polio when Donaldson was only six years old, her father was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Despite this, he continued to have an active life, working as a lecturer in the Institute of Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital, where he pioneered genetic studies using the concept of identical twins brought up apart from one another. Donaldson is the first in her family to attend college.
In addition to her part-time job as a secretary, Elizabeth aided her boss, Leslie Minchin, in the process of translating German lieder into English. Elizabeth sang with the Hampstead Choral Society, Jerry played the cello in amateur string quartets, and both of the parents were prominent members of the Hampstead Music Club. The household was filled with music and song.
The family spent their summer vacations at Grittleton House in Wiltshire, where Jerry participated in a summer school for chamber music on the cello. Meanwhile, Julia and Mary ran around with the other children and performed musical shows with them. She was given The Book of a Thousand Poems by her father when she was five years old, and her grandmother introduced her to Edward Lear’s nonsense rhymes.
Poetry was also a significant part of Donaldson’s early life and played an important role in her development. Donaldson had her early education at New End Primary School and then continued her education at Camden School for Girls. Throughout her infancy and adolescence, she was active in the performing arts. She studied acting (including understudying the fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Old Vic, where she met a young Judi Dench and Tom Courtenay), sang with the Children’s Opera Group, and learned to play the piano.
Donaldson attended Bristol University from 1967 through 1970, where he majored in Drama and French and graduated with a 2:1 honors degree. While she was there, she participated in departmental productions and studied the guitar in her own time. She and her companion Maureen Purkis performed in the play “I am not the Eiffel Tower” in 1968. The music for the play was composed by Colin Sell, a talented young pianist who was attending Bristol to study Spanish and Portuguese at the time.
Sell has since gone on to appear in the show “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue” on BBC Radio 4. Malcolm Donaldson, a medical student who played left-handed guitar and was an enthusiastic amateur actor, came to witness the show and, as a result, joined forces with Sell, Donaldson, and Purkis to sing in the bars during Bristol University Rag Week in early 1969. Donaldson was Sell’s roommate, and he was a talented amateur actor. Purkis was also a member of the group.
After this, almost immediately, Donaldson and Purkis were given the opportunity to reside in Paris for six months as part of their degree program. During this time, they entertained café audiences in Paris by singing and playing their guitars for money. During the summer, Malcolm became a member of the group, and together they gave performances of songs by the Beatles and from musicals, such as Hair.
After working as a street performer in Paris for a number of weeks, Malcolm eventually joined Julia and Maureen at the Avignon Festival. As a result of his attempts to sleep on their youth hostel floor, he was kicked out, and the three of them were forced to relocate, eventually sleeping on a campsite and even a field. During this time, a strong friendship was forged between them. A French businessperson discovered the band while they were in Paris and invited them to try out for a role in his company.
Despite the fact that nothing came of this, Donaldson and Purkis composed a tune to the classic French poem “Metamorphosis” expressly for the audition. This was the first time that Donaldson had composed a song for an occasion (other than the childhood shows). She was diagnosed with “cookie-bite” hearing loss while she was in her 30s. This type of hearing loss creates a gap in the middle of the audible spectrum in the shape of a bite, which makes it difficult for her to understand certain types of speech and music. Lip reading is helpful for her.
Malcolm Donaldson, Julia’s spouse, is a consultant pediatrician who is now retired from active practice. Previously, the pair made their home in Bearsden, which is located in East Dunbartonshire. and in 2014 made the transfer to Steyning, which is located in West Sussex. They had three sons, the oldest of which, Hamish, struggled with schizoaffective disease and committed suicide at the age of 25 in 2003.
Hamish was the oldest of their sons. She attributes some of her inventive writings to him as a source of inspiration. Alastair, who is a Professor of Programming Languages at Imperial College London, and Jerry are two of their other kids. Jerry is a software engineer. Julia’s performances for children are frequently attended by Alastair, Chris, Chris’s daughters Poppy and Felix, and Chris herself and her husband.
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