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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 December 2007, 01:04 GMT
Damehood for Tracy Beaker creator
Jacqueline Wilson
Wilson began her career writing for magazines
She may be less of a household name than JK Rowling, but Jacqueline Wilson - who has become a dame in the New Year Honours - is arguably Britain's most popular children's writer.

In a career spanning 35 years, she has sold more than 30 million books and, for the past four years, has been the most-borrowed author in British libraries.

Her most famous creation, Tracy Beaker, is a 10-year-old girl placed in a care home as a result of domestic violence.

But Wilson has written more than 80 books, many dealing with gritty social subjects such as teenage pregancy, divorce and failed suicides.

Young mother

Wilson was born Jacqueline Aitken in Bath in 1945 and spent much of her childhood in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, where she still lives today.

She has described her upbringing as unhappy, and says she remained scared of her father's "unpredictable rage" even as an adult.

Growing up in the 1950s, she longed to be a writer, making up stories in "little Woolworths notebooks" from the age of six, before writing her first novel when she was nine.

Tracy Beaker
Tracy Beaker has become a hit TV show starring Dani Harmer
After an underwhelming school career she reluctantly joined a secretarial college.

But she soon grew restless and applied for a job as a journalist at Scottish newspaper publisher DC Thompson, which also produced comics such as The Beano and Dandy.

Her first job was on teenage magazine Jackie, which was named after her.

Wilson married when she was 19, and had her daughter Emma in her early twenties, after which she took up writing full-time.

But she was not an overnight success. She wrote about 40 books before striking gold with The Story of Tracy Beaker in 1991.

The novel spawned two hit sequels and a successful BBC television series, and Wilson remains proud of the gutsy foster child she created.

"Tracy Beaker has become a useful person," she told the Daily Telegraph earlier this year.

"Even if children don't read, they have seen her on TV, so she makes children who have a rough deal feel less alone."

Wilson's other children's novels include The Suitcase Kid, The Bed and Breakfast Star, Double Act, Bad Girls, The Lottie Project, Girls in Love, Vicky Angel, The Dare Game and Dustbin Baby.

She was shortlisted for the Whitbread award in 1999 for The Illustrated Mum - which she calls her favourite of her own books. It went on to be named children's book of the year at the British Book Awards.


Double Act
Double Act was made into a Channel 4 series
In June 2002 Wilson was made an OBE for services to literacy in schools, and served as children's laureate from 2005 to 2007.

As laureate, she urged writers to make more books available for the blind, and campaigned against cutbacks in children's drama on television.

Wilson is still an avid reader and has a collection of about 15,000 books crammed into her home.

But she admitted that she lost her OBE insignia when she moved house recently.

"I thought: 'I'll put this in a safe place,'" she told the BBC earlier this year, "and I've put it in such a safe place I can't find it!"

"I have a certificate to say that I actually got it, and it was very pretty, but no - it's not there!"

Wilson manages to read about a book a week despite her hectic schedule and her favourite all-time children's book is Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

She also finds the time to reply to every child who writes to her, even if it is just a postcard.

"It is very touching and a great privilege," she says of the young people who write letters to her.

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