Julia Donaldson, author of more than 120 books and plays for children including the international bestseller The Gruffalo, has been appointed the Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate, for the term 2011-13.

Initially a songwriter and performer, including creating songs to order about any subject imaginable by her audience as she busked in Paris and elsewhere, Donaldson moved into books when she was encouraged to write one of her songs down as a picture book story. Based on a traditional tale, the book was A Squash and a Squeeze, which was illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It was the beginning of the bestselling partnership between the two which, in addition to The Gruffalo, has included The Gruffalo’s Child, The Snail and the Whale, and Stick Man. Donaldson has also worked with several other illustrators, including David Roberts, Emily Gravett, Nick Sharratt and Lydia Monks. In addition to her picture books, Donaldson has written several novels for younger readers, including The Giant and the Joneses, and a teenage novel, Running on the Cracks.

Donaldson’s passion for rhyme, which she employs in most of her writing, will be a focus of her time as Children’s Laureate. “With my background in plays and songwriting, I am particularly keen to develop projects which link books with drama and music,” she said, “and to explore the ways performance can help children enjoy reading and grow in confidence.”

Donaldson was presented with the Children’s Laureate medal and a £15,000 check by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, Chair of the Children’s Laureate 2011-2013 selection committee, at a ceremony in London on Tuesday.

The Children’s Laureate is awarded every two years to an author or illustrator to celebrate their outstanding contribution to books for children. Donaldson is the seventh Children’s Laureate since the post was created in 1999; she succeeds illustrator Anthony Browne.