FOR children’s novelist Julia Donaldson a stick is not just a stick - it’s a world of imagination. And that led to her storybook Stick Man, a perennial best-seller, translated into 23 languages.

In 2015 it was made into an animated film with a starry cast including Martin Freeman, Jennifer Saunders and Hugh Bonneville and now it’s been adapted for the stage. The touching, funny family show is adapted from the book by Donaldson, multi award-winning author of some of the world’s best loved children’s books, most notably the modern classic The Gruffalo, which has sold over 13 million copies.

What sparked Stick Man was an image created by Axel Scheffler, who has illustrated many of Julia’s books. He drew the Gruffalo’s Child holding a stick doll in an image which became the cover sleeve of the book.

“It set me thinking about sticks and how they can become so many different things,” says Julia. “I remembered how when my sons were little they’d play with sticks and they’d be everything.

“I thought about this for some time and how a stick can be mistaken by lots of different creatures for lots of different things. So it can become the mast of a sand castle, a stick for a dog, a bat for a bat and ball game.”

And so the story evolved. It centres on Stick Man who lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children. When he decides to venture outside, he quickly discovers that being a stick makes him a very attractive toy and tool for lots of different people and animals. Taken on a whirlwind adventure, all he really wants is to be back home in his family tree.

“I tend to plan a book in my head and I can’t really start until I also have an end in my head,” she says. “People think it’s enough to just have an idea but you have to develop it through to an end.”

Julia’s first book, A Squash and a Squeeze, was published when she was in her mid-40s. She has been a prolific writer ever since, publishing over 100 books as well as plays, songs, musicals and poems.

“Every month I get schools sending me bundles of letters from 30-60 children who are doing a project on one of my books,” adds Julia, who was Children’s Laureate 2011-13.

“For me the greatest pleasure comes from reading a book and all that the imagination can bring to that experience. I don’t see books, television and theatre as competing with each other. What matters is that children have the opportunity to experience that pleasure of reading a book.

“And the whole experience of theatre is also magical. I went to the theatre to see Where the Rainbow Ends as a child and that is something I still remember.

“I do a lot of events and book signings and while some people will say they have read my books sometimes it is someone who knows the story because they have seen it in the theatre. Either way they have responded to it and remembered it.”

l Stick Man is at St George’s Hall on Monday, October 21, 3.30pm, Tuesday, October 22,11am and Wednesday, October 23, 11am and 1.30pm. Call (01274) 432000.