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Dame Jacqueline Wilson In Conversation

Dame Jacqueline Wilson appeared at St George’s Hall, Liverpool in May to discuss her long and successful writing career. Famous for creating Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather, the former Children’s Laureate talked about her inspiration for her stories and her new book about child evacuees in World War II, Wave Me Goodbye.

So ARB Books have created a pack of Jacqueline’s popular titles, which have all been quizzed for Accelerated Reader.

Ahead of her appearance at St George’s Hall, the 71-year-old writer was asked by Liverpool magazine Your Move why she tackles “heavy” subjects, from divorce to mental illness?

“Certainly with things like divorce it’s important,” she said. “When I was a kid you had to whisper the word because it was seen as so shameful, and yet these days the conventional family unit is becoming almost a rarity now.

“I like to write about all kinds of children, including those in difficult circumstances, but I also like my books to be quite light-hearted in parts and have happy, yet realistic endings. I do think children these days are more exposed to adult issues, with television and the internet ushering them far too rapidly into the modern world.”

Jacqueline has sold more than 40 million books in the UK alone and the CBBC adaptations of her Tracy Beaker and Hetty Feather books have been huge hits.

“I try to write in a comforting way that is easy to understand,” she said. “If a child is going through something difficult it’s like a hand being held up and saying ‘it’s okay, I know what it feels like’.”

But what is the best way to persuade children to read? “The key is getting to them very young. It’s better to sit with a young infant and browse through a basic picture book together rather than giving them a tablet device to dab at.

“This encourages them to embrace the warmth, fun and humour of looking at books. I’ve not yet met a very small child who doesn’t like being read to – even if they are particularly fidgety you can occupy them with Lego or something while they listen.

“Children exposed to these experiences are likely to pick up a reading habit. Of course they’re going to want to play electronic games as well, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a bit frightening that some youngsters think staring at a screen is the only natural way to communicate.”

She’s a prolific writer, who has written 106 novels, despite suffering health problems. She had heart failure in 2008 and a kidney transplant in 2014. In the two years leading up to that last operation, she had thrice-weekly dialysis treatments, but she still carried on working.

“If you happen to be in hospital or having some kind of treatment, a wonderful way of diverting yourself – even better in a way than reading a book – is writing a book,” she said in The Express.

“You really do get absorbed in a different world. You’re not thinking, ‘Oh God, I feel ill’ or ‘What’s going to happen next?’ It’s a good way of just coping, I suppose.”

David Collins

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