BEST-SELLING children's author Terry Deary took centre stage as he received a special accolade in his home city.

The man behind the popular Horrible Histories books, now living in County Durham, returned to Sunderland to receive an honorary degree from the city's university.

He was conferred with the honorary doctorate of education by university vice-chancellor, Peter Fidler, in an end of term graduation ceremony at the Sunderland Empire Theatre.

It brought back happy memories for the former actor, dramatist and teacher, who first took to the Empire stage as a six-year-old in a 1950s Christmas show.

The celebrated writer recounted his previous appearance on stage at the packed Empire theatre, which provided some of the inspiration for his future career.

"I made my debut on the same stage as a kid, singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in a Christmas variety show starring the Smith Brothers, a Geordie performing duo who for some reason wore kilts.

Fifty-four-year-old Mr Deary was born, the son of a butcher, in Hendon, Sunderland, and later qualified as a teacher at the city's College of Education.

His first novel was published in 1977 and he has gone on to become a full-time author, writing 115 stories for children and teenagers, translated world-wide.

Now living in Burnhope, he divides his time between writing fiction for teenagers, true mystery stories, and his Horrible Histories series, while producing his novels for television broadcast.

But he was thrilled to receive the award, in front of an audience including wife Jenny, 86-year-old mother Freda and his 20-year-old student daughter, Sara.

"I didn't get a degree when I qualified, it was a teacher's certificate, so it was quite a thrill to go back to my home town to be recognised in this way."