The Queen of children’s tales comes to Norwich

Top children's author Jacqueline Wilson will be in Norwich next week to sign copies of her latest book. STACIA BRIGGS finds out more about the author who inspires children to pick up books and her forthcoming visit.

She's the Queen of children's literature, one of the most-borrowed authors at libraries across the country and she'll be making a flying visit to Norwich this month to meet the people she writes for.

Jacqueline Wilson will be signing copies of her new book, Lily Alone, on Thursday February 17 from 4pm to 5.30pm in the book department on the ground floor at Jarrolds.

As for all the very best prestigious events, entry is by ticket only, but tickets are free and can be picked up from customer services at Jarrolds on floor two.

Whenever Jacqueline visits Norwich, an eager crowd gathers to greet her.

Born in Bath in 1945, Jacqueline spent most of her childhood in Kingston-on-Thames, where she wrote her first 'novel' at the grand old age of nine and filled countless Woolworths' exercise books as she grew up.

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As a teenager, she started work as a journalist working for a magazine publishing company in Scotland and has been writing full time for all of her adult life.

She has been on countless shortlists and won many awards, including the Smarties Prize and the Children's Book Award. The Illustrated Mum won the Guardian's Children's Fiction Award and the 1999 Children's Book of the Year at the British Book Awards.

Millions of copies of her books have been sold in the UK alone, and in a poll conducted by the BBC, four books by Jacqueline Wilson were in the Top 100 children's books of all time: Double Act, Girls in Love, Vicky Angel and The Story of Tracy Beaker.

In person, Jacqueline – who has cornered the market in children's social realism – is as fascinating as the books she writes. Always dressed dramatically, she wears colossal silver rings which adorn almost every finger apart from the arthritic finger on one hand and the same finger on the other hand 'which I keep bare to keep it company'.

Her seemingly endless ideas for books, which tackle subjects which are often difficult or painful, are, she says, the result of daydreaming.

'An idea comes into my mind, a bit like a dream comes into your head, and I try and work on it before it disappears,' she said.

'It might be based on something I have read or experienced or it might be something new which makes me think 'where on earth did that come from?' I came up with the name Tracy Beaker in the bath!

'I find it much easier to write about girls because I know more about them. Of course I am one, and I have a daughter, too. If you're a writer, it's easier to write about what you know instead of trying to imagine how someone else might feel.'

Wilson's favourite book of her own is The Illustrated Mum, a poignant book about a Mum who has depression and her two daughters, Star and Dolphin. In June 2002, she was given an OBE for services to literacy in schools and was made a Dame in the New Year's Honours List for 2008.

Wilson's new book is the story of Lily, who isn't home alone, but wishes she was: looking after her three younger siblings is a lot of responsibility.

When her Mum goes off on holiday with her new boyfriend and her stepdad fails to show up, Lily is determined to keep the family together and prove that they can cope without any grown-ups.

But taking care of six-year-old twins, her three-year-old sister and the family's flat feels overwhelming and Lily is worried that school or social services might discover their situation and break up the family.

What could be better than to take all the little ones for a camping adventure in the park? There's plenty of space to run about in, no carpet to vacuum and surely no one will guess that they're there…

Entry to see Jacqueline Wilson on February 17 is by ticket only. Tickets are free and available from customer services, floor two. Call 01603 660661 for more details.

Jacqueline Wilson will sign copies of Lily Alone for ticket holders only. Books must be purchased at the event or accompanied by a Jarrold receipt. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Lily Alone, by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrations by Nick Sharratt, is published by Doubleday Children's Books and costs �12.99.