Thursday, February 01, 2007

Private Peaceful - highly recommended

Michael Morpurgo was British Children's Laureate from 2003-2005, preceded by Quentin Blake and Anne Fine and succeeded by Jacqueline Wilson.

Morpurgo who, this year, is writer in residence at the Savoy Hotel, London, has written 100 books, so why I hadn't read any of them until last week was a puzzle.

Then I discovered that his first book was It Never Rained: Five Stories, published in 1974. By then our son was 15, a phase of his life when he was more interested in playing rugby, the school Cadet Corps and canoeing than in sitting about with a book.

Later, as young people do if they've been surrounded by books from birth, and both parents are enthusiastic readers, our son mixed outdoor pursuits with reading books for adults.

So it was just our bad luck, and a matter of timing, that Mr Morpurgo's output escaped our notice. However as soon as we return to summer quarters, I shall buy a copy of The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips to lay down [in the fine wine sense] for my eldest grandson, at present two and a half.

When you visit Michael Morpurgo's site, don't miss this interview which explains his extraordinary childhood.

Private Peaceful, which I read last week and recommended to Mr Bookworm, is described as "Reading level: 10-12 Interest age: 10-14". Interest age 10-95 would be more accurate: it kept two seventysomethings riveted, and the last chapter brought a lump to my throat, something which happens rarely.

The website is packed with interesting stuff, including this -

"In 1976 Michael and his wife, Clare, started the charity Farms For City Children (FFCC), which aims to relieve the poverty of experience of young children from inner city and urban areas by providing them with a week in which they work actively and purposefully on farms in the heart of the countryside. They now have three farms – Nethercott in Devon, Treginnis in Wales and Wick in Gloucestershire. "As a teacher I realised many children had little real contact with the world around them – to them the television was real. I wanted them to experience life at first hand." In the last 30 years over 50,000 children from cities and towns throughout the UK have spent a week of their lives living and working for a week on one of the three farms."


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