My Favourite Children’s Author: The Enduring Power of Jacqueline Wilson

For 50 years, Jacqueline Wilson's stories have depicted kid’s real lives and problems in a way few others do – and they are loved for it.

Last month, our Friday evening routine changed as we swapped Netflix for kids TV. Why? Because Tracy Beaker is back – and this time, she’s a mother.

The first episode of My Mum Tracy Beaker racked up a huge 2.1million streams on iPlayer from viewers of all ages during its opening weekend, making it CBBC’s most successful show ever. 

Tracy Beaker may be all grown up with a child of her own now, but Jacqueline Wilson’s rich storytelling has proved timeless across generations of young readers.

Growing up, my collection of Jacqueline Wilson books took pride of place on my over-crowded bookshelf. As a serial re-reader, I returned to her books for an escape, for reassurance, and a tattered copy would always be within reach.

Since her debut novel in 1969, Wilson has written over 100 books, each tackling contemporary issues, and has sold a staggering 40 million copies. 

Even now, whenever I browse the bookshelves at Waterstones, a small part of me leaps with excitement to see Jacqueline Wilson has yet another new book out, even if I’m not buying it. 

We know kids today are digital natives. Whether they are talking to their friends on WhatsApp, sharing photos on Instagram or laughing at TikTok, they live in an all-pervasive technology world. Reading habits may have shifted but what endures is that whether it’s from video games, movies, or books, kids will always want good stories and characters to love. They show them far-flung places, extraordinary people and eye-opening situations to expand and enrich their world. They’re a great way of helping them deal with real-life situations they will encounter.

4th March marks World Book Day. Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, the day is marked in over 100 countries around the globe.

A bookshelf is one of the most powerful resources we have to enhance our world view, broaden our perspective, and celebrate our differences. Unfortunately, according to World Book Day, 383,755 children in the UK don’t have a single book to call their own. 

World Book Day’s mission is to ensure every kid experiences the magic of storytelling and discovers the joy of reading for pleasure. In partnership with schools all over the country, they distribute over 15 million £1 World Book Day book tokens to children and young people that they can exchange for a brand new book. 

Growing Up with Jacqueline Wilson

If you mention Jacqueline Wilson to your average British twenty, thirty, or even forty-something, they will be able to talk at length about her books. She’s the author of The Story of Tracy Beaker, Double Act, and the Hetty Feather series, as well as over 100 other books that light up a bookshelf and play a big part in most, if not all, bookish childhoods across generations. And mine was one of them.  

Wilson stands out among other contemporary children’s authors because she doesn’t shy away from taboo subjects in her stories. Instead, she broaches poignant topics, from bullying and divorce to new stepfamilies and homelessness. I’ll always admire her for never sugar-coating these issues but rather show kids that there is a path through the darkness. 

Her stories depict kid’s real lives and problems in a way few others do – and they are loved for it.

Despite its melancholy themes, I must have read Wilson’s book My Sister Jodie from cover to cover at least five times; picking it up when I couldn’t sleep, finding something new each time I read through it, hanging onto every word. It’s a book I will never forget.

Writes of Passage

Stories stick with you. They teach us about life, about ourselves and others. Storytelling is a unique way for kids to develop an understanding, respect and appreciation for other cultures. 

The publishing world has transformed over the past few years. It’s making room for underrepresented voices and giving space to authors who tackle timely topics in a way that’s accessible for children.

In turn, kids books are broaching poignant themes, from mental health and loneliness to friendship and imagination, all helping young readers understand the world around them. And with a bibliography spanning 50 years, Jacqueline Wilson was a pioneer of this. 

Be it Tracy Beaker or troublesome twins Ruby and Garnett in Double Act, her stories appealed to many of us through their strong and relatable voice – a distinctive childlike perspective of the world around them. All without ever patronising the reader. 

Kids can see themselves in these books. They can see their stories articulated, their feelings given an attractive, lively, undefeated and authentic voice. This is the beginning of empowerment.

And kids love it. At KidsKnowBest we regularly speak to kids as part of our YTS programme and Shuo, aged 8, told us, ‘Basically, all the books in the house are finished. I finished the whole Harry Potter series.’ Despite the dominance of video games, books are still an integral part of many children’s lives.

The world is changing every day, and stories are more important than ever to understand it.