Dame Jacqueline Wilson, DBE, FRSL (née Aitken; born 17 December 1945) is an award-winning English author, known for her vast and diverse work in children's literature. Her novels have been adapted numerous times for television, and commonly deal with such challenging themes as adoption, divorce, and mental illness. Addressing these issues has made her controversial because of her young readership.
Wilson is perhaps best known for her series of novels featuring the character Tracy Beaker, who first appeared in Wilson's 1991 novel The Story of Tracy Beaker, from which has followed three sequels, as well as two CBBC television adaptations: The Story of Tracy Beaker and Tracy Beaker Returns.
Jacqueline Wilson was born Jacqueline Aitken in Bath, Somerset, in 1945. Her father was a civil servant, her mother Magaret or "Biddy", an antiques dealer. Wilson spent most of her childhood in Kingston upon Thames, where she went to Latchmere Primary School. Wilson was an imaginative child and enjoyed reading and making up stories. She particularly enjoyed books by Noel Streatfeild, as well as American classics like Little Women and What Katy Did. Even as young as six and seven, Wilson knew that she wanted to be a writer and would fill Woolworths notebooks with stories of her imaginary games. At the age of nine she wrote her first "novel" which was 22 pages long. The book, Meet the Maggots. was about a family with seven children. Although she was good at English, the young Wilson had no interest in maths and would often stare out of the window and use her imagination rather than paying attention to the class, leading her final year teacher at Latchmere to nickname her "Jacky Daydream". Wilson later used this nickname as the title of the first stage of her autobiography.
Apart from in English, Wilson did not do particularly well at school and had to re-take her 11+ exam in order to pass as she had a bad cold on the day (see Jacky Daydream). After Latchmere, she moved on to Coombe Girls' School, which she still visits to this day. Kingston University has named the main hall at its Penrhyn Road campus "Jacqueline Wilson Hall" in recognition of her connections with Kingston upon Thames.
Having left school at sixteen, Wilson started training as a Secretary but then applied to work with the Dundee-based publishing company DC Thomson on a new girls' magazine Jackie. DC Thomson offered the 17 year old a job after she penned a piece on the horrors of teenage discos. Wilson therefore moved to Scotland. An urban myth that the magazine was named after her has been perpetuated by the author in promotional work even though this has been denied by those who were involved in the launch.
In Scotland, Wilson fell in love with a printer named William Millar Wilson. He then joined the police force and the couple moved south for his work, marrying in 1965 when Wilson was 19. Two years later, they had a daughter, Emma.
Wilson focused on her writing, initially writing a few crime fiction books before dedicating herself to writing for children. At the age of 40, she took A-level English, passing with a grade A. Wilson had mixed success with some forty books before rising to fame in 1991 with The Story of Tracy Beaker. In 2004 Wilson's marriage was dissolved after her husband of three decades left her.
Jacqueline Wilson lives in a Victorian villa in Kingston upon Thames. The house is filled with books as she remains a keen reader, getting through a book a week despite her hectic schedule. In her adult tastes, Wilson's favourite writers include Katherine Mansfield and Sylvia Plath. As the owner of some 15,000 books, Wilson had to buy the outbuilding at the bottom of her garden to house her library. She also surrounds herself with old-fashioned childhood objects such as a rocking horse and a number of antique dolls. Wilson also has a unique taste in clothes and jewellery. She is known for wearing black clothes and an array of large rings. She swims fifty lengths each day before breakfast. She likes all sorts of music, especially Queen and Freddie Mercury.
She is patron of the charity Momentum in Kingston upon Thames, which aims to help children and the families of children undergoing treatment for cancer in Surrey.
Wilson's stories focus on realism much more than most children's books, and have tackled such difficult themes as vagrancy, abuse, grief, divorce, foster care, mental illness and her prose is often interspersed with ink drawings by former Roald Dahl collaborator Nick Sharratt, who also designs the covers for her books.
Wilson usually writes via a first person narrative, and has occasionally experimented with alternating viewpoints, such as in Secrets, The Lottie Project, and Little Darlings.Totally Jacqueline Wilson
Over 25 million copies of Wilson's books have been sold in the UK alone. In a poll conducted by the BBC, The Big Read, four books by Jacqueline Wilson were voted in the top 100 most popular books in Britain: Double Act, Girls In Love, Vicky Angel, and The Story of Tracy Beaker. In the list of the UK's 200 favourite books there are 14 books by Jacqueline Wilson. In 2004 she replaced Catherine Cookson as the most borrowed author in Britain's libraries, a position she retained for four years until she was overtaken by James Patterson in 2008.
Jacqueline Wilson has won many awards, including the Smarties Prize, and the Guardian Children's Fiction Award. The Illustrated Mum won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award and the 2000 Children's Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the 1999 Whitbread Children's Book Award. The Story of Tracy Beaker won the 2002 Blue Peter People's Choice Award. Girls in Tears was the 2003 Children's Book of the Year at the British Book Awards.
In June 2002, Jacqueline Wilson was given an OBE for services to literacy in schools, and from 2005 to 2007 she was the fourth Children's Laureate. In this role, Wilson urged writers to make more books available for the blind and also campaigned against cutbacks in children's TV drama.
In October 2005 she received an Honorary Degree from the University of Winchester in recognition of her achievements in and on behalf of children's literature. In July 2007 she received an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Letters) from Roehampton University in recognition of her achievements in and on behalf of children's literature. She is also the recipient of Honorary Degrees from the University of Dundee and Kingston University.
In the New Year Honours 2008, Jacqueline Wilson was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).
Cliffhanger (1995, Channel 4). Part of Look, See and Read, two part drama.
Double Act (2002, Channel 4). Starring twins Zoe and Chloe Tempest-Jones as Ruby and Garnet, with a special appearance by Jacqueline Wilson as the casting director at the auditions. This was a one-off 100 minute feature.
The Story of Tracy Beaker (2002—2005, CBBC). Starring Dani Harmer as Tracy and Lisa Coleman (whose sister, Charlotte, appeared in Double Act as Miss Debenham) as Cam. Original air date: 8 January 2002 — 18 December 2005.
The Illustrated Mum (2003, Channel 4). Starring former EastEnders star Michelle Collins as Marigold Westward, Alice Connor as Dolphin Westward and Holly Grainger as Star Westward. This was a four-part miniseries but later shown as a full feature with no ad breaks. It was again repeated at Christmas 2004. Original air date: 5 December 2003.
Best Friends (2004, ITV). This was a six-part miniseries, but originally aired as one feature with a slightly different ending. Starring Chloe Smyth as Gemma and Poppy Rogers as Alice. Original air date: 3 December 2004. This was repeated on the CITV Channel on Saturday 6 March 2010.
Girls in Love (ITV). Starring Olivia Hallinan as Ellie, Zaraah Abrahams as Magda and Amy Kwolek as Nadine. There have been two series of Girls in Love broadcast. Original air date: 1 April 2003 — 18 April 2005.
Dustbin Baby (BBC). Featuring an A-list cast including Juliet Stevenson as Marion, David Haig as a new character, Elliot, and Dakota Blue Richards as April. Original air date: 21 December 2008.
Tracy Beaker Returns (2010). This is a currently airing series in which Tracy returns to the "dumping ground" (Stowey House but it changed its name to Elmtree House) to earn money for her new book because she stole Cam's money to publish it.
Secrets was adapted for stage, along with Midnight and The Suitcase Kid. The latter was shown between Sat 24 Nov - Sun 30 Dec 2007 at Warwick Arts Centre.
To date, there have been no feature film adaptations of her novels.