Such Stuff: A Story-maker’s Inspiration – Michael Morpurgo. Illustrated by Michael Foreman

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Walker Books

October 2016

ISBN 9781406364576

RRP: $27.99

What a master storyteller Michael Morpurgo is! His body of work and his reputation are both completely awe-inspiring. This unparalleled weaver of dreams who was the UK Children’s Laureate from 2003-2005, with over 100 books to his credit, (many translated into other languages) and numerous awards has provided those of us who are such admirers of this work with an unprecedented insight into his writing.

This is truly a joint production. When Michael’s brother suggested that so many people always ask about how the stories come to life it would be a good idea to write about it, Michael took up the idea with enthusiasm.  It was natural to involve his long-time illustrator and collaborator, Michael Foreman, who has often provided him with the germ of an idea for a story. And along with his wife, Clare, began the task of collating anecdotes, excerpts and background information for the brilliant format of this book.

The ‘story’ of each book begin with Michael’s recount of the first idea – sometimes a real life incident, a media story, an historical fact or a yarn from someone met in a pub. He discusses how the pieces of each story then come together, to be woven into one narrative. At times, many such singular ideas all combined into the one book. Then follows an excerpt from the book in question, these selected by Clare and lastly, a few pages of information that provide back story to the particular theme of each – all fascinating and interesting aspects of the relevant title.

As an indulgence I must share this from the chapter on “I Believe in Unicorns”:

…We know the best parents and the best teachers do this, change lives. So often forgotten are the best librarians, dedicated people who go quietly about their business of trying to encourage reading. For many children who are not read to at home, or who have been frightened of books, or bored by them, at school, a good library and good librarian can change the life of a child, by judicious and sensitive recommendations, by arranging book groups, by readings, by inviting authors into to talk to children….

Thank you Michael both for that positive affirmation of our profession but also for the joy you bring to our lives with your superb writing. Visit Michael’s website here.

I highly recommend this to you for students who are interested in the process of creative writing, for lovers of Michael’s work and for your own professional reading. This one stays firmly on my own shelf!

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