Young bookworms at a Scots primary school had the honour of helping one of their best-loved children's characters begin his 25th anniversary celebrations.

Oh help, oh no - there was a Gruffalo galumphing down the halls of Auchterhouse Primary School with his famous creator, Julia Donaldson.

It was an emotional return visit for the author - the book that made her name was dedicated to the Angus school on its publication and continues to be celebrated at the front of every edition.

Now the Gruffalo is one of the world's best-loved children's characters, translated into 107 languages and dialects and, along with the sequel The Gruffalo’s Child, has sold more than 18 million copies globally.

On Ms Donaldson's first visit to Auchterhouse, however, she hadn't yet found a publisher - but had such a delightful time at the school she promised to dedicate the book to it.

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During her original visit to the school, Julia read her story and asked pupils to draw pictures of what they thought The Gruffalo should look like.

And on Wednesday the school’s former head teacher, Sheila McCallum, and former pupils from the time of the first visit returned to see her.

Ms Donaldson said: "That was in about 1995 or 1996 probably and I remember they greeted me by acting one of my plays.

"They took me around their Nature Garden and showed me stories that the young older ones had written for the younger ones.

"I read them The Gruffalo and they seemed to like it and because they'd been so lovely I said, if ever got a publisher, I would dedicate it to them.

"So I did."

One former pupil had a particular surprise for the author.

"Children don't really know what a dedication is but one of them actually had a book from when I revisited the school once it was published," Ms Donaldson said.

"I'd forgotten, but I revisited the school in 1999 and one of the children had a book from then that I had signed with a special book plate in, and I re-signed her book.

"I was quite touched to think about that."

The prolific children's author says she has time now only for one or two school visits a term but still loves reading to and performing her book to children.

She said: "I love the way children don't really know what's considered a sensitive question.

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"Sometimes they'll say things like 'Why are you wearing those funny shoes or someone says, 'Do you get aches in your wrist?'

"'Do you get aches in your knuckles or do you get aches in your shoulder?' They all start asking you about aches.

"When they grow up a little they're probably dying to find out why you're wearing such funny shoes.

"But they know that wouldn't be considered an appropriate question."

Despite visiting hundreds of primaries over the years, Auchterhouse always stuck in her mind.

"I used to do visits all the time, way before The Gruffalo was published," Ms Donaldson added, "because there was this scheme initially run by the Arts Council, but then later by the Scottish Book Trust, and it's still going, called Live Literature Scotland.

"But this one's just stuck in my memory, I think, because it was a village school and it was probably the smallest school I visited and was just a particularly welcoming school."

Now she's very well known, Ms Donaldson said people tend to be welcoming - but in the early days it was not always the case.

She said: "Sometimes I would do a school visit and you'd get there and the receptionist would say, have you got an appointment?

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"I went to one and the teacher said, 'It's funny. Usually when I ask the children to bring in books by the author, they've all got books and they bring them in and in your case, no one had any.

"That was funny, isn't it?'

"So I didn't always get a wonderful reception."

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The visit was organised by the Scottish Book Trust whose CEO, Marc Lambert, said: ‘It is wonderful to be part of the 25th birthday celebrations after supporting Julia at the very start of her incredible journey with The Gruffalo.

"Access to books is absolutely essential for a child's development and wellbeing, and for many the only books they have at home are the ones that have been given to them by Scottish Book Trust."

Ms Donaldson said one thing that impresses her about the Scottish Book Trust's work with authors is that it is egalitarian: everyone - no matter their status - is paid the same amount for a visit.

She added: "In England the school expects to tell you what to do and you can charge however much or little you like and they might haggle.

"Whereas in Scotland, because it was just a set fee that was really good."

Ms Donaldson has been working with the Scottish Book Trust, in its various guises, for at least 30 years and also worked on the charity's Book Bus, which "took authors to very out of the way places".

"Sometimes it would be an island," she added, "Or places like Angus and it was a lovely thing, travelling around all these different schools with the driver.

"And I used to do tons and tons of school visits. I would drive myself there with the directions sitting on the passenger seat and I would get lost and everyone behind would be tooting their horns at me."

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Reflecting on recent library closures in Scotland, Ms Donaldson said: "It's just so awful for young people because I think in the short term [councils] think they are saving on their budget.

"But then in the long term it's going to just cause bigger demands on other budgets because children aren't reading, they aren't engaged with books or accessing things like homework clubs in libraries, things like that for people who come from homes where it's difficult to concentrate.

"And also reading just must improve literacy and then when you think that so many prisoners are illiterate, it all kind of ties up.

"There must be far fewer librarians overall than there was. I made so many good friends with them because they would take you out to a school in the morning and a school in the afternoon and you'd have lunch with them.

"I would give them parts to act in my plays and so on. I'm still in touch with some of these lovely librarians."

On the obvious question of the longevity of The Gruffalo's popularity Ms Donaldson has been asked many times before and has an eight-word reply up her sleeve.

"Good rhymes," she says, "good story, great pictures. Quite scary."

She added: "Also perhaps the fact that it's a nice book to read aloud but I think it's a question that really you have to ask the readers because I'm not on the receiving end so it's a bit hard for me to say."

So how does a Gruffalo celebrate his birthday?

"Well," she said, "the thing is, the Gruffalo's birthday seems to be lasting from January 1 til December 31."

She won't be drawn on whether the monster has a favourite birthday cake but does add: "He'll be going to independent bookshops around the country, among other things, because it's very important to support them."

As well as Wednesday's celebration, Julia Donaldson, along with The Gruffalo illustrator, Axel Scheffler and Macmillan Children’s Books, are supporting Scottish Book Trust on their annual mission to gift books to children and families visiting foodbanks over the winter months.

The charity is featuring The Gruffalo in its ongoing appeal, which so far has distributed more than 35,000 books to children and families in need all over Scotland.