Spotlight on Julia Donaldson: Children's Book Must-Haves

Growing up in London, Julia Donaldson and her sister were always creating imaginary characters or acting out plays and choreographing ballets. Her creativity stayed with as she grew into adulthood. While she worked as a teacher and in publishing, she and her pediatrician/musician husband spent time off traveling, where they would write impromptu songs and perform in pubs.

Once their three sons were born, Donaldson found work in children’s television as a singer/songwriter. When she was 45 years old, she published a book comprised of many of the songs she had written. This success gave her the confidence to try publishing children’s books. She has since published more than 100 books for children and young adults and she’s won dozens of awards thanks to them. She’s one of Britain’s best loved children’s book writers and no one can beat her when it comes to playful rhyme and rhythm.

Check out our favorite Julia Donaldson books and add them to your library:

The Gruffalo

After hearing a traditional Chinese story about a cunning young girl who convinces a ravenous tiger that she is Queen of the Jungle in order to avoid being eaten, Julia Donaldson set to writing her tale about the Gruffalo.

In this story, a mouse walking through the forest meets a hungry fox. To avoid being eaten, the clever little mouse tells the fox that he is on his way to have lunch with the Gruffalo. When the fox asks what a Gruffalo is, the mouse tells him of the terrible monster who loves to eat roasted fox, prompting the crafty critter to run off. As he encounters other would-be predators on his stroll, the mouse’s description of the terrifying Gruffalo grows fiercer and more terrifying.

Although the mouse is creating the creature from his imagination, he comes face to face with a real Gruffalo near the end of his walk. Still relying on his wits, the mouse manages to outsmart even him.

Room on the Broom

Kids who think that witches riding around on brooms with their pet cats are mean and scary will find the main characters of this book delightfully unconventional. Although this witch looks the part, she seems to have a heart of gold.

As the pair fly through the windy sky one day, the witch’s hat blows off. They land in hopes of finding the hat, but were unsuccessful. Suddenly, a little dog appeared with the discovered hat, asking if there was room on the broom for him as well.
The witch continues to lose important items and find more creatures looking for a ride. She makes room on the broom for everyone until the broom snaps and the group encounters a dragon. The animals work together to scare off the beast.

Charlie Cook’s Favorite Book

Charlie Cook is a boy who loves to read. One book in particular is his favorite, and today he is sitting in a cozy chair to read it.

In the book, an adventurous pirate who is forced to walk the plank and makes his way to a deserted island finds a treasure chest. The chest contains a book about Goldilocks and three bears, but unlike traditional versions, this one finds the girl reading Baby Bear’s favorite book. The book she is reading is about a knight who, instead of fighting his fire-breathing foe, reads to him from his favorite book.

Page after page, Charlie reads about characters reading from their favorite books, ending with a ghost reading her favorite book about a boy who loves to read as sits down in a cozy chair with his favorite book, coming full circle.

The Snail and the Whale

A tiny little snail sits on a rock on the shore, but she wishes that she could sail the sea. The other snails tell her that it is best to leave things as they are.

The little snail decides not to listen to their advice. Instead, she writes a message on her rock with her silvery trail: “Lift wanted around the world.” To her glee, a giant whale answers her plea and takes her on the adventure of a lifetime. However, speedboats cause the whale to swim too close to the shore, where the waves wash him onto the beach.

The tiny snail uses her unique writing abilities to notify nearby children of the whale’s predicament, proving that everyone can make a difference, no matter how small they might be.

The Spiffiest Giant in Town

The scruffiest giant in town, George always wears the same old thing. He wishes he could be a spiffy dresser, but he doesn’t know how to change.

One day, a store just for giants opens. George happily buys himself the spiffiest outfit he can find, from a shirt and pants to a new tie, belt, socks and shoes...and he feels like the spiffiest giant in town.

However, on his way home, George meets several animals in need. As it turns out, each item of George’s new outfit is the perfect solution to each creature’s problem. Once he realizes he is no longer spiffy, George is sad. He finds his old, scruffy clothing and realizes they’re actually quite comfy, but it’s the moving way the animals show him their appreciation reveals that he’s definitely the kindest giant in town.

Kids will love the silly descriptions, engaging rhymes and wonderful illustrations in all of these stories by Julia Donaldson.

If you have a favorite Julia Donaldson book not included here, please share it with us!

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Tags : books   picture books   

Chloe Farhadi
My daughter loves The Gruffalo! Going to check out the others on our next library run. Thanks for the recs!