Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

A visit to Seven Stories – a must-see destination for fans of children’s literature

Posted on | August 27, 2012 | 23 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I was able to realise a long held dream: I got to spend a day at Seven Stories, “the national home of children’s books in Britain”.

Opened in 2005, Seven Stories showcases a national collection of manuscripts and illustrations of some of the UK’s greatest authors and illustrators for children. It has an extensive archive, and a wonderful museum-cum-gallery-cum-exploration space in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in NE England.

A view of Newcastle showing The Sage, The Baltic, the Tyne Bridge (with Olympic rings) and the Millennium bridge (the winking bridge)

Seven Stories is located just outside the centre of Newcastle on the banks of the Ouseburn in a part of town which has a quirky, slightly bohemian feel to it, surrounded by artists’ studios.

The front entrance to Seven Stories

Spread over seven floors (the name also refers to the seven basic plots that reoccur through all types of storytelling) there is plenty to see and do. We spent about 4 hours at Seven Stories and all of us, including the kids, would have liked to stay longer.

There are two main gallery spaces in the building and these host special exhibitions. Until the middle of September this year you can see Daydreams and Diaries, the Story of Jacqueline Wilson, whilst A Squash and a Squeeze: Sharing Stories with Julia Donaldson runs until February next year.

Both exhibitions explore the published work of both authors, their backgrounds and family, and the illustrators with whom they’ve worked. The exhibitions are bright, spacious and wonderfully hands-on – each little nook or cranny has something for visitors to try, take part in, listen to, make, dress up in or crawl inside!

Unfortunately (from the point of view of this blog), it was not possible to take many photos (the use of flash is prohibited to protect the exhibits, and most objects can’t be photographed because of copyright issues). Nevertheless, I hope the photos below (a mixture of my own and some shared by Seven Stories) will give you a good flavour of the two exhibitions

M in the entrance to the Jacqueline Wilson exhibition

Jacqueline Wilson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

Jacqueline Wilson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

Jacqueline Wilson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

Jacqueline Wilson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

Jacqueline Wilson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

The entrance to the Julia Donaldson exhibition

Julia Donaldson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

We met someone we knew…

Julia Donaldson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

Julia Donaldson exhibition. Image: Seven Stories. Used with permission.

In addition to the enormously enjoyable and well thought out exhibition spaces there are several creative spaces in the building, places where kids (and their grown ups) can get crafty, make things, draw, dress up, listen to or read stories.

M and J exploring the Story Lab, opening hidden doors in a Satoshi Kitamura mural to find treasures hidden behind them.

Getty crafty in the Creation Station

Playing in the Artists’ Attic

Dressing up in the Artists’ Attic

Looking for a book to read in the Artists’ Attic

Seventh Heaven. Looking for more books to read in the wonderfully stocked Seven Stories bookshop.

Seven Stories
is situated on the banks of the Ouseburn, almost next door to a city farm with pigs, chickens and goats as well as lots of vegetables growing. This setting was a wonderful place to while a way another hour or so with the kids before we walked down the banks of the Ouseburn to join the Tyne – a pushchair-friendly, delightful walk.

Seven Stories was everything I hoped it would be and I can’t wait to return – hopefully in October to see the new exhibition Gronckles and Doomfangs, celebrating Cressida Cowell and her How to train your Dragon books.

Seven Stories is a wonderful place to visit with something for all ages. I highly recommend it!

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23 Responses to “A visit to Seven Stories – a must-see destination for fans of children’s literature”

  1. Good Books For Young Souls
    August 27th, 2012 @ 12:27 am

    Wow – this looks incredibly amazing! I’ve never heard of anything like it. How is it funded? (I’ll have to check out their website.) Thanks for sharing. :)
    Good Books For Young Souls recently posted..IT’S COMING! JAN BRETT’S LATEST BOOK…

  2. se7en
    August 27th, 2012 @ 12:41 am

    Oh wow, what a fabulous, fabulous spot. And another reason why we should jump on a plane and visit your side of the world!!! Just love it!!!
    se7en recently posted..Saturday Spot: Our Readers Have Built a Library for Lesotho… Book by Book…

  3. Damyanti
    August 27th, 2012 @ 12:41 am

    Sounds like you had fun it really is a fantastic place
    Damyanti recently posted..Summer reading

  4. Stacey
    August 27th, 2012 @ 12:52 am

    What an amazing place! Wish we were closer…
    Stacey recently posted..Jonathan Kozol: Reformer and Kidlit Fan

  5. bookaholic mum
    August 27th, 2012 @ 6:43 am

    We visited 7 Stories a few months ago and thought it was absolutely wonderful. I don’t know who enjoyed the Julia Donaldson exhibition more – the kids or myself! It was so informative and inspiring. The residents of Newcastle and nearby are incredibly lucky to have a place like this on their doorstep!
    bookaholic mum recently posted..Book Review: Taunting the Dead by Mel Sherratt

  6. Zoe
    August 27th, 2012 @ 7:14 am

    Hi Good Books for Young Souls, I’ve never been to the Eric Carle museum but I can imagine that might be the nearest thing in the US. As to funding the info is here – basically a mixture of state and private funding.

    Yes Se7en, I am waiting for you all!!

    Indeed Damyanti, we did. It was our first time in Newcastle and we enjoyed the city rather a lot – a beautiful centre, and Ouseburn was lovely.

    Stacey, you can come with Se7en and we’ll all go together :)

    Hi Bookaholic Mum, yes, there was so much in the exhibitions wasn’t there, for all ages. I loved how inviting all the spaces were and how much there was for kids to DO – not just to look at, but to be active and inquisitive with.

  7. Polly
    August 27th, 2012 @ 9:03 am

    Deeply jealous. A weekend trip is a top idea which we may copy :)
    (or maybe we should just go to Discover today)
    Polly recently posted..Summer Holiday Themes 8: Holiday report

  8. Suzanne
    August 27th, 2012 @ 11:47 am

    We love going to Seven Stories even if we feel very out of place by not having children of our own with us.
    Great pictures! Thanks for showing your readers how great of a place it is!
    Suzanne recently posted..Bank of America and Downton Abbey

  9. Ruth Waterton
    August 27th, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

    What a wonderful day out. All I need is a child to go with me – mine are 18 and 21 now!
    Ruth Waterton recently posted..Britain isn’t working – the sloppy arguments of “Britannia Unchained”

  10. Zoe
    August 27th, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    Hi Ruth, as Suzanne above said, Seven Stories is great even without kids – there’s lots for adults interested in children’s literature to enjoy, for example I was amazed by a letter from Axel Scheffler’s editor – content and style was very interesting, as well as the insight into a process normally hidden. So don’t feel you need a child to go along – “just do it!”

  11. Zoe
    August 27th, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    Thanks Suzanne, I do think it’s a place adults can get a lot out of too – so thankyou for highlighting that!

  12. choxbox
    August 27th, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

    Sigh. You know what I am going to say.

    But thanks, who knows, some day we might be aBle to visit. One can always hope right?!

  13. Helen D
    August 27th, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

    Right, that’s it, next year we ARE going on holiday to Newcastle. now to convince my other half…
    Helen D recently posted..The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My

  14. Kathryn
    August 28th, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    Seven Stories do some great adult tours where you get to see how an exhibition comes together and meet the archivists who handle the collection of original material. You even get to be involved in the white glove experience yourself and handle original material.
    There’s more booked into the autumn too just keep an eye on the website.

  15. Amy Broadmoore
    August 28th, 2012 @ 9:02 am

    This looks so fun! I know of nothing comparable near where we live.
    Amy Broadmoore recently posted..Scholastic Book Club Top Picks for Less Than $5

  16. Katherine
    August 29th, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

    This is one of my favourite places, I’ve been several times and it’s definitely not just for children. Now I have one though I can’t wait to take him!

    SO glad you had a great time, it’s a truly wonderful place.
    Katherine recently posted..Long time no blog

  17. Zoe
    August 29th, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

    Oh Katherine, sounds like you got the perfect excuse! (not that any excuse is really necessary of course ;-) )

  18. Debbie's World of Books
    August 30th, 2012 @ 7:27 am

    Wow, I would love to visit Seven Stories! It looks amazing.
    Debbie’s World of Books recently posted..Dancing Raisins (Bobbing bouncing raisins)

  19. Elisabeth (YS Princess)
    September 1st, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    Um. I don’t think I’ve ever been more jealous of people who live in Britain! (maybe the olympics, but at least those still sort-of travel around…) Were there any adults in there who weren’t accompanied by children? lol
    Elisabeth (YS Princess) recently posted..Follow Friday / Book Blogger Hop

  20. Jen
    September 2nd, 2012 @ 12:56 am

    This looks like so much fun! I’ll be in England at the end of October, maybe I should add this to my must-see list!
    Jen recently posted..Crazy About Soccer

  21. Zoe
    September 2nd, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    Hi Elisabeth, I didn’t notice any when i was there, but I was pretty engrossed in the displays so there probably were!

    Think you’d love it Jen!
    Zoe recently posted..Reading on location with dinosaurs

  22. Valarie
    September 5th, 2012 @ 2:17 am

    I’ve never heard of Seven Stories but it’s gone on my list that the next time I’m in England I’ll be going to this most incredible book haven. Please, oh please take photos of the Cressida Cowell Exhibit. Those are extremely popular books in my house. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful day in such an inventive museum. :)
    Valarie recently posted..What Does it Mean to be BIG? by Coleen Paratore

  23. Zoe
    September 5th, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

    He he Valarie, I’ll do my best to get to the Cressida Cowell exhibition – I know it’s going to lots of fun!

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