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Gruffalo author Donaldson quits Scotland for England

Aha!

The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, who is leaving her house in Bearsden to spend more time with family in EnglandPhotograph: Getty Images
The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, who is leaving her house in Bearsden to spend more time with family in EnglandPhotograph: Getty Images

Oho! To England we go! After 25 years in Scotland, in which she has created some of the world's best-loved books and endeared herself to stressed-out parents everywhere, Julia Donaldson, the author of The Gruffalo, is returning south, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

Donaldson, creator of Room On The Broom, Stick Man, Princess Mirror-Belle and scores of other bedtime favourites, is quitting her home in Bearsden, north of Glasgow, to spend more time with her family in England.

The departure has been confirmed by her publisher, Macmillan Children's Books.

The former children's laureate and her husband Malcolm, a senior researcher in child health at Glasgow University, have already bought a new home in preparation for the move.

Later this year they plan to sell the Bearsden villa where they have lived since moving to Scotland from Bristol in 1989, and where Donaldson wrote all her best-known books.

The couple have two sons and four grandchildren - one family in the Cotswolds and the other in Broughty Ferry - and now plan to divide their time between the two.

Although moving their main home out of Scotland, they intend to hold on to a flat they own in Edinburgh for return visits.

Donaldson, 64, is one of the most successful and prolific authors in the UK, with more than 180 published works to her name.

The Gruffalo, her 1999 story of an imaginary monster that turns out to be real, has sold more than 10 million copies alone and been translated into 40 languages, including Scots.

The story, its sequel The Gruffalo's Child, and a third story, Room On The Broom, have also been made into BBC TV animations, which have become classics in their own right.

Susan Frize, owner of the Milngavie Bookshop where Donaldson did some of her first readings, and is still a regular visitor, said her first reaction to the news had been "Oh no!" She said: "I'm envious of wherever she's going. She's always been very supportive, of us, the arts festival and the local libraries. It will be a bit of a loss."

Fiona McLeod, the SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, said: "The local literary scene will miss her."

Born in London, Donaldson studied drama and French in the late 1960s. A gift for languages and music led to busking around Paris and then across America with her future husband.

In the 1970s, she worked on BBC children's TV, writing songs for Play Away and other shows, as well as running children's drama sessions in her then hometown of Brighton.

However, it was only when she and her family moved to Scotland in 1989, after Malcolm secured a paediatrics post in Glasgow, that she switched focus from song-writing to books. A publisher asked if she could turn one of her old songs, A Squash And A Squeeze, into a children's picture book.

Appearing in 1993, it not only launched her as an author, it also began her collaboration with the German illustrator Axel Scheffler, who would work go on to work on The Gruffalo, Room On The Broom and many other titles.

Donaldson was appointed children's laureate in 2011 for two years, using the platform to tour the country to campaign against library cuts. She also received an MBE for services to literature in 2011.

Always keen to promote reading among children, she recently helped launch Wee Write!, Scotland's first dedicated book festival for children, which takes place in Glasgow in March.

A spokeswoman for Macmillan said: "The Donaldsons have bought a house down south and do intend to move this year. They have two grandchildren down south and two in Scotland and have decided to divide their time more between the two families. They will be keeping their flat in Edinburgh and so will still very much have a home in Scotland."

Donaldson declined to comment.

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