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Julia Donaldson: 'It would have distressed my younger self to know that I'm not religious anymore'

Donaldson with her best-known creation, the Gruffalo Credit: Clara Molden

What really might have surprised my younger self is the letters I receive. I do get some funny ones. One little boy wrote to ask me: “What was your favourite Julia Donaldson book when you were a child?”

But if, when I was five, I’d have known that by now I’d be writing children’s verse for a living, I’d have been really pleased. My second choice was to be a ballerina, but my number one ambition was to be a poet. I always enjoyed writing in rhyme, and wrote a little book of poems when I was seven that was all about apples and oranges and the seasons.

By the time I was 12, I wanted to be an actress, so I might have been disappointed to know that I’m not Judi Dench yet. She was a bit of a role model for me, especially when, at that age, I understudied the fairies in the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Old Vic, in which she played Titania.

Donaldson as a child

I’d be consoled by the fact that, although...

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