Donaldson cleans up at Bath
Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson showed at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature that kids' authors are the pop stars for the under tens
After Julia Donaldson's opening event at the Telegraph Bath Festival of Children's Literature, one publicity person for the event told me that for her, the Gruffalo creator is the embodiment of the festival: passionate, not afraid to look silly in the name of fun, and ever so slightly anarchic.
The children's laureate was not afraid to sing (having revealed at the previous night's event that she got started as a busker) nor to let dozens of children onstage to act out a poem. But then such is Donaldson's magnetism that she had her audience of fans (small and big ones) under her spell from the moment she came on stage.
After a spirited performance of her new book The Singing Mermaid (including glittery puppets, dancing fish and a menacing circus-owner) and several poems, Donaldson announced she was heading into a "deep, dark wood". Like the opening chords of a rock band's number one hit, the mere sight of the spooky trees from The Gruffalo produced a roar of excitement from the audience. The author herself played the mouse in what was near to a choral retelling of the story, with the crowd of all ages joining in on every line.
But Donaldson's event was also a reminder of the power of storytelling and of books, something Donaldson herself rammed home with the song 'The World Inside a Book' from Charlie Cook's Favourite Book – stories appeal no matter what your age. In her careful, innocent interraction with the children of the audience, she reminded one of a simpler time when children's books were at the centre of children's entertainment, right back to classic TV show Jackanory. Another highlight was one of the first public readings of her new novel with Axel Scheffler, Superworm, which despite (or perhaps because) having only been out for a few weeks, created a hum of excitement among the young and devoted crowd.
At other times, such as when involving children on stage for a buzzy telling of What the Ladybird Heard, the event was like the best school play ever - parents of any children of three and up are firmly advised to seek out Donaldson at any event near them in the future. The world of videogames and TV has never seemed further away.