Jacqueline Wilson is one of Britain's most popular children's authors. Her books have sold more than ten million copies at home and have been translated into many languages to be sold all around the world. Four of Jacqueline Wilson's books made it into the BBC's Big Read Top 100 Books, and a further ten narrowly missed out and ended up in the next 100. Many of Jacqueline's books have been adapted into stage plays and television series.
About Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline, an only child, was born Jacqueline Aitken in Bath, England on 17 December, 1945. Shortly before she started school, her family moved into a council flat near London. Although Jacqueline was often sick and had to miss weeks of school, she did enjoy school, especially on Friday afternoons when her teacher read a story out loud to the class. She also enjoyed playing imaginary games in the playground.
Jacqueline loved to read and would receive books as gifts from her family on special occasions, but usually read books from the public library. She enjoyed books by Enid Blyton, the Mary Poppins series and The Family From One End Street series. When she was about eight, she started making up her own stories and writing them down in a notebook.
After she passed her 'Eleven Plus' exam, Jacqueline went to a secondary school. Her favourite and best subject was English. She also enjoyed art and history but did not take to maths or science. She took her 'O'-Level exams when she was 16, but says she did not really study hard (putting all her efforts into writing her own stories) and received few passes. When she left school she wasn't completely sure what exactly to do with her life. She wanted to keep on studying English, but did not know where to go or how to go about it. She was encouraged by her parents to do a secretarial course, after which she began looking for work.
Jacqueline saw a notice in a newspaper that asked for teenage writers. She sent off one of her short stories, which was accepted by the company. Encouraged by this, she gave several more of her stories to the company, who were impressed enough to offer Jacqueline a job. This involved her moving to Scotland all by herself when she was only 17. However, she was getting paid to write, which was what she loved to do. The company Jacqueline worked for published comics and magazines for children and women. A magazine for teenage girls was established, and named Jackie after Jacqueline!
While living in Scotland, Jacqueline met a man called Millar Wilson. The two got married when Jacqueline was only 19. This was when Jacqueline's surname was changed from Aitken to Wilson1. Jacqueline and Millar moved back to England, where Millar worked as a policeman and Jacqueline wrote stories and eventually a novel. The novel was for adults, but was turned down for publication.
Two years after the marriage, Jacqueline and Millar had a baby girl named Emma. It was hard for Jacqueline to look after Emma and work on her writing at the same time. She ended up writing many funny articles about life with a baby and was also inspired to write a book in a series of children's stories that she was reading to Emma. To her delight, the first story she wrote, Ricky's Birthday, was accepted for publication. Unfortunately, her second one was turned down. Jacqueline returned to writing for adults and had five adult novels published – all of them in the crime fiction genre. Despite this, Jacqueline still desperately wanted to write novels about children, from a child's point of view.
Novels for Children and Teenagers
Many years later, around 1980, a novel Jacqueline wrote for teenagers called Nobody's Perfect was accepted for publication by Oxford University Press. Happy with her success, Jacqueline began writing more teenage books. Her main characters were always teenage girls. Jacqueline's editor suggested that Jacqueline might prefer to write for younger age groups, so she wrote The Story of Tracy Beaker, which was published in 1991. Jacqueline was keen for her book to feature black and white line drawings (she had always loved these in books when she was young) and her editor suggested she might like drawings by Nick Sharratt. Jacqueline loved the drawings Nick drew, and the two now collaborate all the time.
The Story of Tracy Beaker is a story about Tracy (the narrator), a girl in care who wants to live in a foster home. The book was a great success. It was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize and Carnegie Medal. The book helped make Jacqueline a well-known and much-loved author. A sequel to this book, The Dare Game, has also been published. Usually, however, Jacqueline's books are stand-alone and do not feature sequels. Her only real series is the Girls... series.
Since the publication of The Story of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline has had many more books for children published. Some of these are simple stories with lots of pictures, for very young children. Others are for older teenagers. All of Jacqueline's books feature very brightly-coloured covers.
Many of Jacqueline's works are topical and deal with current social issues. Themes that appear in her book include: death, divorce, bullying, anorexia, obesity, friendship, mixed families, sibling or twin rivalry, Internet dating, boyfriend/girlfriend challenges, domestic violence, cancer, public housing systems, single parents, foster care, poverty, intelligence, adoption, suicide, underage drinking, mental illness and peer pressure. Although fantasy books seem to be extremely popular with children nowadays, many kids actually say they like Jacqueline's books because they are realistic and tackle problems that the kids themselves face. The books are written in first person with the children as narrators (generally girls). Jacqueline says she often writes her books out longhand – she loves using fancy notebooks – before typing them up onto her computer.
Lots of Jacqueline's books have received awards (including the Smarties Prize and Guardian awards) and in 2002 Jacqueline herself was awarded an OBE. She says she still loves reading and that her house is crammed with books. As her books have been gaining popularity, she has received more and more mail from fans and supporters, usually children. Even though she receives hundreds of letters each week, Jacqueline tries to answer each one personally. Jacqueline likes swimming and buys herself a new bangle to wear each time she has a book published (she claims to have got this idea from E Nesbit who apparently did the same). Jacqueline loves her bangles – as well as silver rings – and always wears lots of jewellery. She is not planning to stop writing, saying 'Stopping writing would be like stopping cleaning my teeth!'