How Julia Donaldson conquered the world, one rhyme at a time

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Monday January 4, 2021 at 9:30pm
She published her first book in her 40s and became the biggest selling author of the past decade in any genre – The Gruffalo alone has sold 13m copies. How did this former busker make it so big?

The room where the children’s author Julia Donaldson writes – the heart of her vast picture book empire – is down a winding staircase, in the cellar of her grand white house in Steyning, West Sussex. Her desk looks out on the street at knee height. “I’m thinking of writing a book about legs,” Donaldson said, as she showed me around the house this summer. Children from the nearby school often wave in at her as they pass. Donaldson is well known in Steyning, due to her frequent signings at the local bookshop. She and her husband, Malcolm, a retired paediatrician, recently bought the local post office to save it from closure. But elsewhere she can walk the pavement without being recognised. “I got a letter the other day for Jacqueline Wilson,” Donaldson told me. “It said: ‘You’re my favourite author!’

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