A wonderful choice for Summer Holidays reads, they are packed with images of activities, around for instance, a building site. Trying to find the image amongst an array of pictures gets everyone searching, reading, looking and learning too. They are great fun!
These titles are part of the QED publishing for children’s books, which are excellently produced in style, content and feel. They are books to have and to read,which will linger on the table and the shelves.
Spot the Bird on the Building Site shows some major building projects, like cranes on buildings in London. There are facts on every page,such as, ‘ The world’s tallest crane is also the strongest. It can lift a load the weight of 12 blue whales over 50 storeys high.’
My favourite in the series is Spot the Seal around the World. It’s a tour around the continents of the world and images and a few facts to remember, such as, ‘ Oceania is made up of lots of islands- the biggest one is Australia.
Spot the Mummy in the Museum has a curious mummy figure in bandages with two wide open eyes as it finds its way around the museum; the collections of dinosaurs, masks, buried treasures, Ancient Greeks and Romans , great to follow and acquire more information as you go over the pages.
We would recommend these books for a wide age group, as they will be easily delved into by 9 and 10 year olds, as well as exploring with 5/6 year olds along with parents and teachers.
Part 2: This article was written by Sue Martin, FRSA. Sue is our Partnership Bookseller and literacy and Early Years education specialist. Sue leads on our literacy projects at home and overseas.
Michael Morpurgo, A Lifetime in Stories; an exhibition curated by Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle upon Tyne from the 2nd July 2016 to June 2017…
This is a unique opportunity to visit this remarkable collection of notebooks, manuscripts and correspondence that have been part of Michael Morpurgo’s story writing, life and dreams. The exhibition combines much of his life and ethos and is woven into an iconic display, on the fourth floor of Seven Stories.
Take your time…this exhibition requires that you stop and dream a while, reminisce or ponder on the way Michael can find stories in places, wherever he is; stories from the past, stories of animals, children and people, from war time and in present day. He is a great story-teller and story writer and the author of over 150 books for children, Children’s Laureate and a voice for reason and peace.
This blog will take you on our journey through the exhibition and point you in some directions, we hope it will mean you also will have chance to make this journey one day over the next year. It’s worth it!
Michael Morpurgo was born in 1943 and went to boarding school at seven, and eventually into military officer training at Sandhurst and then he became a teacher. He found the military life difficult and as a teacher he wanted to help children to be creative, give them opportunities, take them out into the world and fire their imaginations, tell stories. There was a clash between curriculum driven tasks and this approach. Later, with his wife Clare, they moved to Devon, where they developed Farms for City Children.
He became friends with Ted Hughes and learnt that, as he said, “I have a story of my own to tell and a voice of my own with which to tell it.”
Interesting quotes from the videos at the exhibition in the Dreamtime corner are; “Live an interesting life. Fill your head with this world, of which you are part, care about it deeply, make up your mind to write about events, memories, conversations and something will emerge.”
“Lose yourself in the story, get into it and go for it; know the people, the place, let the dreams in your head reach the pen on your page, tell it as if to your best friend, as a secret.”
There are many orange notebooks in the exhibition, school notebooks filled with Michael’s writing, thoughts, changes, crossings out and revision. He works and receives inspiration wherever he is, but his favourite place is his converted shepherds hut.
There are too many books to mention them all, but my favourites are; War Horse, which only sold a few thousand copies until it was made into a stage production and is now his most famous book. Farm Boy, the sequel to Joey the war horse, Why the Wales Came, set on Samson island in The Scillies. Along with The Wreck of the Zanzibar, Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea, The Dancing Bear and Waiting for Anya.
There is a curiosity about the books, the man and his talents at finding the story and retelling in a wonderful style, which will mean further reading and an excuse to add more of his titles to our bookshelves.
A final quote… “I know it, lying under the sun on a summer’s night. I know it watching buzzards floating over the valley where I live. It is a learnt belonging from children who stop to gaze, to breath in the world about them, to feel part of it.”
Michael Morpurgo, A Lifetime in Stories at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle upon Tyne. A digitised archive is available on www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection
Part 1: This article was first published on the pages of conversationsEAST, another project of SmithMartin LLP in the East of England. Part of a series of articles celebrating culture, technology and the arts in The North.
Continuing our theme of ‘Northern Energy’, we were in Newcastle upon Tyne this week and, on Friday afternoon, took time to visit Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. They have an important exhibition and research project into the donated archive of the writer Michael Morpurgo. Below is what we thought.
”Michael Morpurgo Exhibition 2 July 2016 – Sunday 2 July 2017, Newcastle UK. A Lifetime in Stories. Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books introduces an exclusive exhibition drawn directly from Michael Morpurgo’s extensive archive donated to Seven Stories in 2015”.
Through one of our our sister projects, Books go Walkabout, an international delivery system to get authors, illustrators and poets, and their books, to corners of the world previously unreached, we have an abiding interest in children’s literature as you would expect.
The Seven Stories Morpurgo exhibition is certainly about a fantastic canon of work dedicated to the young imagination. However, the research team have extracted illustrative and delightful insights into, and evidence of, the writing process, using the archive generously donated to the Centre by Michael Morpurgo in 2015.
What the display and featured narrative does offer, in the broadest terms, is an insight into the creative process, the research and writing of a book, much of which in this Seven Stories gallery has taken place before the arrival and dominance of the word processor.
Not only an exhibition in praise of the work of Michael Morpurgo, but an illustration in itself of what can be achieved with a simple notebook and a pen or pencil. The imagination does not need an elecrical socket and plug to thrive apparently!
Some key exhibition elements:
Michael Morpurgo was born in 1943, and his early life was beset by sadness and conflicting tensions. It was interesting to see the detail of Michael’s school, home life and reaction to his early experiences in the British Army. This thematic thread of war and militarism can be traced through the exhibition, as in Michael’s life. His mother’s grief at the loss of her brother in the Second World War was an equally powerful emotional driver for the writing.
In 1962 Michael met his future wife Clare, and it was the summons home by his mother, with the pretence of an imaginary illness, that offered the opportunity for them to get married, against the prevailing condition that cadets of the Royal Military College Sandhurst must be single. A signal turning point in a creative life which solidified his pacifism, well evidenced and illustrated by this exhibition.
His first short book, published in 1974, was It Never Rained, an interconnected narrative about five children. By 1999 Mopurgo was ready to publish Wombat Goes Walkabout, with wonderful illustrations by Christian Birmingham. A great story about digging holes and how a wombat can save the day.
1982 saw the release of War Horse, perhaps Mopurgo’s most famous creation. The exhibition offers the visitor a display of many of the notebooks, first drafts, corrections and re-typed double spaced manuscripts that drove the creation of this seminal work.
This series of displays offers, we thought, a powerful illustration of how writing is both a physical and an intellectually layered process, but which requires a gritty determination to see the story through to the final end – publication. It is this revisiting and deterministic approach to his craft of writing that makes a Mopurgo novel so dramatic and engaging we suspect.
To an archivist this is vital in determining the writers emotional condition on any particular creative day. As his pen moves rapidly across the notebook page, Michael has left a marker, a measure of intensity, for later researchers seeking to determine his emotional or creative state. Something a plastic keyboard, no matter how powerful the micro-processor it is connected to, could ever offer the interested reader in years to come.
Looking at the Morpurgo ‘war’ material, we pondered on what must be a pivotal issue for the contemporary archivist or researcher. With ready access to technology, publishing processes and cloud storage – how will future archivists and seekers of process engage with material that is electronic and resting, potentially, in a thousand different formats, storage facilities and locations around the globe.
Interestingly, MIT Technology Review has just published an article on the use of computing and data mining techniques to show that there are, it contests, only six basic ’emotional arcs’ in storytelling. These are…
…a steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.
We are intense users of the notebook and pen ourselves, in our ordinary workaday lives, but have to recognise that research and analysis would now be immeasurably diminished without technology. We wondered, travelling through the Michael Morpurgo exhibition, an historical audit trail of the creative mind, what other contemporary children’s and young adult writers take on ‘techno’ is today?
Perhaps this is a Seven Stories seminar series in the making? Pen or Processor, the creative methodology in contemporary children’s literature. We would buy a ticket! (Ed.)
A visual treat:
Towards the end of the exhibition content is a section dedicated to Michael Morpurgo’s artistic collaborators, the artists who have contributed to the written work.
It offers the visitor a fascinating insight into how the imagination is populated by the story, how the psyche is suggested a character and landscape by Michael Morpurgo’s writing. It is also, within the context of this article, a soaring endorsement of the power and durability of putting a hand to paper. Surely no machine can replace the creative evocation of story by the artists below?
The work on display includes artwork from Quentin Blake, Gary Blythe, Peter Bailey, Christian Brimingham and Tony Kerins amongst others. We particularly warmed to the diversity of images in the exhibition that depicted the sea. Whether Kensuke’s Kingdom or When the Wales Came, the original cover art to be seen provokes an imaginative dream of action, wind, water and a tale to be told.
It was wonderful to see this collection of individual artistic work within the context of theSeven Stories Michael Morpurgo exhibition. But each artist has a separate body of work which is lively, imagination capturing and enchanting in equal measure. We hope you can use the links above to explore this on-line collection ‘gallery of galleries’ too.
Getting to Seven Stories NE1 2PQ :
If you leave the impressive Newcastle Central Station and turn right down towards Quayside, you can turn left along Quayside and walk, past the Pitcher and Piano until you come to St. Ann’s Steps on the left. Ascend them. At the top, look back down the river to the bridges receding into the distance. Turn and cross the road and right down to Cut Bank on the left, following the river left along for a couple of hundred yards and Seven Stories will apppear on your right.
The journey there, if the sun is shining, can be as uplifting as your visit to The National Centre for Children’s Books. This is a fascinating insight into the work of our national story teller. Seven Stories offers a whole rainbow of experience around ‘the children’s book’, whether a holidaying family looking to stimulate young imaginations, a visit to the cafe and bookshop, or a serious academic look at the sweep of children’s literature.
‘Seven Stories was able to support the acquisition from Michael Morpurgo through support from Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Collecting Cultures’ programme, which has been awarded to Seven Stories in recognition of the museum’s national role in telling a comprehensive story of modern British children’s literature’.
Source: Seven Stories web site. Accessed 09.07.2016 See http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection/collection-highlights/michael-morpurgo
This book won the Bologna Regazzi award, which aims to arouse curiosity about fauna, flora and to get to know the outside world.
Every page turned has an intriguing illustration or fascinating information in the text. From how to build a swing and reach the clouds, with facts about making a swing in a tree to the different types and styles of beaks on birds! It is literally packed with information for children ages, 8-12 and for adults who have maybe forgotten that stuff or never knew!
Who does this footprint belong to? What is this worm up to? What is the name of this tree?
Even if we live in the city, nature is still all around us: clouds and stars, trees and flowers, rocks and beaches, birds, reptiles or mammals.
What are we waiting for?