Gruffalo, Monkey Puzzle or would you like some Room on the Broom

We were delighted that our favourite children’s author Julia Donaldson has been named the Children’s Laureate from June 2011 to June 2013.  Julia’s books have brought many hours of delight and excitement at bedtimes for millions of children and their parents, with their melodic verse and beautiful stories.

My children love The Snail on the Whale. There is something about the way the verse trips and glides across continents and oceans that makes them sleepy.  I love the salutary moral lesson and the way the snail saves his best friend.  The imagery in all her books is beautiful and whimsical, Axel Scheffler has illustrated most of the favourites but also Nick Sharrat. I love looking for the unexpected details, the animals in the background or a person with a brilliant expression. It keeps the books interesting even after the 100th time of reading!

Julia grew up in a tall Victorian House with her mother, father, grandmother and aunt and uncle. She would make up stories and plays with her younger sister Mary, they had a cat (Geoffrey) whom they believed was really a Prince in disguise. From this start in life Julia went on to study Drama and French at Bristol University which played to her love of making up plays, choreography and theatre.

We love the fact that Julia and her husband Malcolm were buskers and that Julia made up songs for each new place they visited.  Perhaps this was what got her her break with BBC making up songs for children’s TV programmes. She has had an immensely successful career that really took off with the publication of The Gruffalo, illustrated by the hugely talented Axel Scheffler.  There’s hardly a pre-schooler in the UK who hasn’t heard at least of the some of The Gruffalo.

Which one is your favourite Julia Donaldson book?  Why do you love it? And can your children recite the words yet?

Written by Holly


  1. Favourites in our house are Monkey Puzzle and Sharing a Shell. I love Monkey Puzzle as the repetition means my 2 yr old son gets really engrossed in the story and has memorised huge chunks. Sharing a Shell is just so inventive – where else would you get an anemone in a toddlers’ book??

    • My 3 year old loves Monkey Puzzle and I love it because I always a get a big cuddle when he finds his mum at the end! Agree on the anenome – so random yet enchanting!

    • Oh I loooove both of those! Sharing a Shell always chokes me up – honestly, I well up at the bit where Crab and Anemone are “too proud to say Shall we Share?”. It’s just such a beautiful little story about friendship, sharing, give and take, and forgiveness…. and sparkly too 🙂
      My son (nearly 3) loves Monkey Puzzle and shouts out all the words. He always turns the whole book upside down on the Bat page.

  2. Snail on the Whale surely the classic bedtime read, but I like The Smartest Giant, too – although the ending always disappoints me. I like the fact he got smart, and am angry he goes back to looking like the village idiot.

    • Snail and the Whale always makes me feel nostalgic about my travelling days, and ever so homesick when the snail and the whale go past the bear… but I just love it to bits as do my kids. I’m with you on the Smartest Giant in Town story!

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