Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson to visit prison
One of the UK's best-selling children's authors will be visiting prisoners in Northern Ireland next month to help them interact with their children.
Children's Laureate and Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson is patron of the Artlink Central charity which puts artists, musicians and storytellers into schools, hospitals, prisons and community spaces to help children and adults develop their talent and creativity.
The award-winning writer told the Belfast Telegraph she will be advising inmates in one of our jails on how to make the audio story recordings they send to their children more animated.
"It's something very different and not something I haven't done before," Julia said.
"Prisoners record stories for their children. It can be hard to have visits, so this way the children are still familiar with their parents' voice.
"I will perhaps do a session of storytelling. Books are good for imagination, so whether you're from an impoverished, criminal, snobbish or rich background, reading is a way to change attitudes.
"There is something in that."
The Glasgow-based writer said she is looking forward to sailing from Scotland to our shores, and in particular to revisiting Londonderry to take part in the UK City of Culture's Humdinger Children's Book Festival.
Supported by Tesco and presented by Dog Ears children's media company, Julia will bring some of her best-loved stories to life at the Millennium Forum at 11.30am and 2pm on Saturday, March 9. She will be helped along by husband Malcolm, professional actors, dragon and mermaid puppets, and of course the boys and girls in the audience.
Julia was in Derry for the first time in 2012 and said she received "a very warm welcome".
"I'm looking forward to getting back," Julia said. "It's a really interesting place.
"Last year I was shown around by Eamonn Deane and he told us all about the city and its history.
"I felt so privileged to have a tour by someone so involved."
Julia was the third most borrowed author in UK libraries last year and after her visit to the north west on March 11-15, she will be taking part in a tour of Northern Ireland's libraries and also some bookshop signings.
With an impressive back catalogue of more than 100 books Julia is well placed to offer advice to budding authors, but she jokingly had reservations about doing so.
"Oh, I'm not sure I want to create any rivals," she said.
"When children ask me that question I always tell them to give the character a problem and make it worse before it gets better."
For more on the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture Humdinger Children's Book Festival (March 7-9) visit www.humdinger bookfestival.com
Julia Donaldson MBE is the Children's Laureate 2011-2013. The Glasgow-based author and performer has written more than 100 books and plays for children and teens, including the award-winning rhyming stories The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, and Zog, all illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
She has also written scores of educational books.
Julia's passion for drama is explored during performances at various book festivals, where she talks, acts and sings with her audience.