Julia Donaldson on how she spends her Saturday reading, playing the piano and on long country walks

The Gruffalo author and former Children’s Laureate, 72, on reading in bed, foraging for mushrooms and dancing the afternoon away

Julia at home
children's author Julia Donaldson Credit:  Jooney Woodward


The normal thing on any day is tea in bed, followed by reading books. At the moment it’s Alexander McCall Smith’s The Department of Sensitive Crimes, about a very nice detective who has a deaf dog that can lip read. My new book, The Hospital Dog, is about a dog too, so that just tickled me.

Alexander McCall Smith’s The Department of Sensitive Crimes Credit: Little, Brown


I have muesli with blackberries. Malcolm [Julia’s husband, a retired paediatric consultant] criss-crosses half a mango and eats it with a spoon. I’ll have a bath and leave the water for Malcolm. I like nice, smelly stuff in the bath, which I buy from the post office across the road [in Steyning, West Sussex]. Last year we bought the post office to stop it from closing down, and it’s run by our friends. I dislike shopping because of this mask thing; it’s very difficult because I have a hearing problem.

Julia loves muesli with blackberries in the morning Credit: Getty Images

In lockdown we had a card from volunteers who could do our [food] shopping for us. I burst into tears – I’m just not used to being on the receiving end of charity. But I loved it, it was like Christmas. And I did a weekly Facebook broadcast called Julia Donaldson and Friends, acting out my stories and singing songs from my books.

The Gruffalo - Donaldson’s beloved character Credit: Getty


We go for a local country walk. I’m very interested in wild flowers and foraging for edible mushrooms. We recently picked three pounds of field mushrooms.


Lunch might be a picnic. I pack oatcakes, cheese, some apples and a flask of coffee. I’ll be mulling over [book] ideas and sounding them out with Malcolm. Then after an hour scribbling away at my desk, I put on Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Bach and do improvised dancing.

Julia spends the afternoon dancing Credit:  Getty Images


I fit in some piano practice. When we lived in Glasgow, our sons learnt with this wonderful man, Rob 
Foxcroft, and me and Malcolm started having lessons then too.


I might make a mushroom risotto. I do almost all the cooking and Malcolm does more of the washing-up. He makes a G&T and we’ll be sipping that while cooking.


Malcolm and I play Scrabble. We recently did an alphabet of all the high-scoring Scrabble words – there are so many, like zo or qi.


We will read in bed, sometimes aloud. We used to do it more, but now the other person often goes off to sleep.

My spirit animal is...

I would like to try being a seagull – they have a very varied, sociable life. You see them in school playgrounds, then suddenly they’re over the sea and always talking 
to each other.

My most treasured possession is...

The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson Credit: Macmillan Children's Books

My illustrators do a one-off picture for me of each of my books. I’ve got a lovely one by Rebecca Cobb of The Everywhere Bear.

My guilty pleasure is...

Playing the computer card game Spider Solitaire. I did have one year when my new year’s resolution was that I would never play it and I stuck to it, but I’m afraid 
I’ve relapsed.

The Hospital Dog by Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie is published on Thursday; Macmillan Children’s Books, £12.99