September 25, 2011
Michael Morpurgo is a prolific and well-loved English writer of children’s literature. A number of his more than 120 cherished stories have been adapted for television, theatre and even opera and ballet. The beloved War Horse, first published in 1982, has recently been enjoying enormous success as a stage play in the West End of London and on Broadway in New York City. Steven Spielberg has been working with Morpurgo to share the story on an even larger scale – his movie version will be released during the Christmas holidays this year. By all accounts it’s going to be a winner.
Our family had an opportunity to attend one of the theatre productions and we were all bewitched. The story is a classic heart-wrencher: love, loss, pain, hope and reunion. Remarkable puppetry is used to portray the horses and must be seen to be believed – incredible! If you have an opportunity to attend one of the big shows or a travelling version, gallop, don’t trot, and get yourself a ticket. Here’s a quick glimpse though the clips really don’t convey the realism adequately:
We’ll be looking forward to the movie version as well. The trailer has recently been released:
It really is worth becoming familiar with Michael Morpurgo, the writer, himself. He receives accolades for his award-winning writing but is also a keen educator and philanthropist. I’m personally enthralled with the Farms for City Children project he and his wife masterminded and generously support. This endeavour allows urban children to experience the wonders of the rural world: “Over the years the formula has changed very little. Simply, children are involved in everything necessary to keep the farms going. They learn hands-on where their food comes from, the importance of caring for animals and the land, and the value of working co-operatively as a team. The rewards are, unusually, non-material and self-generated: children discover an active enjoyment in life and a sense of achievement, the effects of which remain with them long after they have waved the farms goodbye.”
I hope as the weather cools you’ll find some cozy reading time and can enjoy some of Michael Morpurgo’s stories – he is a wonderful storyteller and his books shouldn’t be limited to children’s bedside tables – add a few to yours. I’m sure you’ll be delighted you did.
August 30, 2010
When you think of your favourite author hard at work, what do you picture? Rustic ateliers with views of rooftops? Remote cabins deep in the woods a la Henry Thoreau at Walden? The Guardian newspaper in the UK featured an entertaining series called Writers’ Rooms showing a photo and a bit of back story on the space by the writer his or her self. I loved some of the unexpected little details and found the entries witty and fun. The Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival followed up with a version of its own on its website, exploring the work spaces of local authors. Equally engaging!
Steven Galloway (The Cellist of Sarajevo etc.) wrote: “The sign on my door read “Roy’s Poodles, Poodle Training and Poodle Related Services” and from time to time I’d advertise a job opening. Once someone from the Government of Canada’s Human Resources division put their card under the door in response to a posting for a fully accredited canine acupuncturist. Good times.”
Michael Morpurgo (The Butterfly Lion, Alone on a Wide Wide Sea etc.) wrote: “For many years, I wrote on our bed in the house. But there were complaints about ink on the sheets, dirty feet on the bed, and we felt we should try to create somewhere else, a storyteller’s house.” (Read more )
And of Jane Austen’s space: “Having no room of her own, she established herself near the little-used front door and here ‘she wrote upon small sheets of paper which could easily be put away or covered with a piece of blotting paper’. A creaking swing door gave her warning when anyone was coming, and she refused to have the creak remedied.”
Writers in the movies seem to always have enviably well turned out havens for their work. Remember Diane Keaton’s alcove in Something’s Gotta Give? or Colin Firth in Love Actually hard at work on a novel in Italy and feeling quite distracted by his Portuguese housekeeper… Click on the photos to connect with the videos of these scenes.
May 27, 2010
Last week I came across an interesting endeavour on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book program: a number of well-known authors had been recruited to put forth nominations of “forgotten treasures of the literary world – books that have been overlooked or become inexplicably out of vogue and which most deserved to be re-read and reinstated onto our bookshelves.” The winning selection presented by Michael Morpurgo was a beloved book of mine, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. The story recounts the relationship between a young girl and a reclusive lighthouse keeper who share in the recovery of an injured snow goose during wartime. The Dunkirk evacuation plays a significant role in the story. In fact “A story of Dunkirk” is the subtitle in UK editions. Short on pages this gorgeous tale is loooong on memorable heart wrenching emotion. I had planned this post already but when I woke up this morning to the news that today begins the 70th anniversary of Dunkirk I knew the topic was destined to be! It is a wonderful book to read yourself but can also be shared with your older children and teens. It has been assigned reading in many schools.
A quick review of the historical background according to The Telegraph:
The Dunkirk evacuation, dubbed Operation Dynamo, saw 338,000 troops rescued from the beaches of northern France between May 27 and June 4, 1940. It came after the speed of the German advance through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France left nearly half a million British and French troops trapped there. The rescue was led by the Royal Navy, which drafted in ships and boats of every size including pleasure boats, private yachts and launches. Described as a ”miracle of deliverance” by British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, it is seen as one of several events in 1940 that determined the eventual outcome of the war.
To read more about the Evacuation of Dunkirk and to see images read here.
To listen to the “Neglected Classics” piece on BBC Radio 4 and to hear an excerpt from The Snow Goose read aloud, click here. The fascinating recent follow up on the Open Book show is here. To learn more about the cultural impact of this story, click here.