Yesterday we started our children’s literature tour of the UK in Scotland and made our way as far south as Shakespeare’s home, Stratford upon Avon. Today our literary journey through the UK continues with us first hopping across to Belfast in Northern Ireland.
CS Lewis was born in Belfast and there are several sites we’ll visit to learn about his childhood and inspirations for the Narnia stories. Belmont Tower is a good starting place with its exhibition about the author, but for a full itinerary, take a look at this document from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and this info about a possible bus tour we could take. Thanks to Caroline at Learning Parade for helping me with this part of our tour.
Now, back to England and on to the city of dreaming spires, Oxford.
Oxford has just launched a bid to become UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014, which is when The Story Museum is due to open. The team behind this new centre for stories is already very active, hosting a variety of events for families and children in locations throughout Oxford until their permanent home opens. Alice’s Day, “an annual day of frabjous family fun” which turns Oxford into Wonderland is one of their biggest annual events, and is next due to take place on 9th July 2011
Just before we reach the capital you might choose to visit the (permanent) Wind in the Willows Exhibition at the River and Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames or the (temporary) exhibition “Escape To Wonderland: A History of Children’s Book Illustration exhibition” at The Lightbox in Woking. There’s also the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery in Buckinghamshire County Museum, Aylesbury.
For even more fun with Miss Honey and chocolate in the village where Roald Dahl lived for 30 years we’ll spend some time at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. Aren’t you curious to see what you can have in the cafe there? A whizzpopper? Or a baked potato with snozzcumber filling?
Once we’re in London there’s a lot to see and do! Discover – The story making centre is a good place to start. A “hands-on centre focusing exclusively on creativity through projects, exhibits and activities exploring words, language and imagination”, Discover is an immensely fun place to spend some time as a family. On October 2nd its newest exhibition opens: Green Drops and Moonsquirters – The UTTERLY imaginative world of Lauren Child.
Next on our itinerary is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is currently hosting a small exhibition about the illustrator Walter Crane – “A Revolution in Nursery Picture Books”. Earlier this year there were three other exhibition of special interest for kidlit lovers – ‘We are all mad here': Alice in popular culture, A Fairyland of Flowers: Beatrix Potter and Cicely Mary Barker and Capturing the Imagination: British Fairy-tale Illustrations 1860-1940, so whilst the V&A isn’t dedicated to children’s literature it’s always worth checking in case there’s an exhibition on. The V&A is also host to several Children’s Literature Collections. Whilst these are not on public display, they are available to all by appointment.
London is well served with independent children’s bookshops. Tales On Moon Lane, Herne Hill, Ripping Yarns, Highgate (specialising in secondhand children’s books), Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill, The Golden Treasury, Wandsworth, The Lion and Unicorn Bookshop, Richmond and Victoria Park Books are all lovely places to find new treats.
A visit to the Illustration Cupboard, an art gallery representing contemporary book illustrators from around the world, will wrap up our tour. Currently original artwork from Graham Oakley’s Church Mice is on display and available for purchase – I hope you’ve not spent all your money already on books!
I’ve deliberately left out of this tour visiting places in the UK that feature in children’s literature but where there is no sort of centre/museum/gallery to visit. Storybook England is a really lovely site dedicated to exploring the English countryside through locations which feature in children’s literature. I can’t recommend it enough and it comes with a teacher’s pack and downloadable map. Get London Reading is a neat, interactive website you could use to plan your own trip around sites in London which appear in literature. Most books featured are for grownups, but some children’s books also feature.
In case you can’t join me on this tour straight away, and you want to plan a future visit, why not consider timing your tour to coincide with one of the children’s literature festivals that take place in the UK?
Starting on Friday there’s The Bath Festival of Children’s Literature . October sees The Crystal Palace Children’s Book Festival. The Northern Children’s Book Festival takes places in November as does the Children’s Literature Festival in Exeter.
The Children’s Bookshow isn’t a festival in the traditional sense, but rather an organisation that arranges an annual tour of children’s authors and illustrators. The tour takes place in the autumn and coincides with Children’s Book Week and there are various shows you could enjoy with performances by Bruce Ingman, Quentin Blake and Gunilla Bergstrom amongst others this year.
February sees the perfect cure to any winter blues with the Imagine festival of children’s literature at the Southbank Centre in London. Discover runs a children’s literature festival in March each year, called The Big Write. Anthony Browne, Bruce Ingman, Thomas Docherty and Eileen Browne are already confirmed for the 2011 festival.
Late May/early June is when Young Readers Birmingham takes place. The biennial Manchester Children’s Book Festival is next due to take place in July 2012. Of course, many other book festivals also feature children’s books (such as the Edinburgh Book Festival in August), but the ones I’ve mentioned here are those which focus on kidlit.
Here’s the link to the google map I’ve created for this tour – If you know of any other sites in the UK that would be great to include in our tour please let me know and I’ll add them.
Phew! What an adventure If I were to come on tour in your country what children’s literature sites should I visit? Maybe next we could all go on a world tour?..
In the meantime, if you’d like to take part in my picture book swap – Perfect Picture Books by Post – please click here to find out everything you’ll need to know to join in!