Julia Donaldson: 'It's the same thing a book gives you: while you're reading or watching, you believe in a different reality'

Julia Donaldson: 'It's the same thing a book gives you: while you're reading or watching, you believe in a different reality'

The revered children's author discusses the origin story behind her clumsy dragon as Freckle Productions re-imagines Zog for the stage

When you've written almost 200 books, you take inspiration where you can find it. And in the case of Zog, Julia Donaldson's tale of an accident-prone dragon at school, it came from a couple of sources. 'Zog was quite unusual, in that the initial idea didn't come from me,' recalls Donaldson. 'My editor said "it would be lovely to have a story about a dragon", so I started thinking, and the name Madame Dragon came into my head. And then I thought, "what could Madame do, who could she be?" I came up with various ideas and a schoolteacher was one of them, so I took it from there.'

The resulting picture book, currently touring the UK in a stage adaptation by Freckle Productions, still needed a bit of work on the Princess Pearl character. For that, Donaldson turned to somebody closer to home. 'My husband Malcolm is a doctor and he also had some input. I knew Zog would keep meeting the Princess, and originally I was going to have them sit together and toast marshmallows. But Malcolm said "that's a bit soppy, couldn't it be something with a bit more oomph?" So then I came up with the doctor angle.'

Zog, like Donaldson's other books, proved to be a big hit and she hopes stage adaptations of her works have a similar impact. 'It's the same thing a book gives you: while you're reading or watching you believe in a different reality. And if it's a good show, parents love to see that their children, even very young ones, can be transfixed by it.'

King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 12–Sat 15 Feb, and touring.

Zog

Children's show about a dragon who tries hard to earn a golden star at Madam Dragon's school, based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

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