Summer Kidlit days out: A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell

posted in: Cressida Cowell | 8

Summer holidays are nearly upon us here in the UK and so I’ve compiled a set of places to visit with the family all of which have a children’s literature link.


  • The 26 Characters exhibition at the Story Museum features photos of children’s authors and illustrators dressed up as their favourite book characters, and runs till 2 November.
  • The River and Rowing Museum in Henley (UK) has a special Wind in the Willows themed exhibition (19 July – 7 September)
  • How many of the book benches around London could you sit on? Yes, not an exhibition, but definitely something fun to try this summer!
  • Daydreams and Diaries: The Story of Jacqueline Wilson is on at the Museum of Childhood in London until 2 November. If you want a flavour of this exhibition you can see the photos I took of it when it was originally opened at Seven Stories.
  • Discover Children’s Story Centre in London has a packed programme of events linked to children’s book all round the year. Their indoor soft play areas and outdoor playground are enormous fun.
  • The brand new House of Illustration has a special Quentin Blake exhibition (until 2 November)
  • Cartwright Hall in Bradford is hosting A Squash and a Squeeze: Sharing Stories with Julia Donaldson (a version of the exhibition we visited a couple of years ago and which I documented here)
  • A variety of Children’s Book Illustrations are on display at Nunnington Hall, Yorkshire (12 July – 7 September). Thanks to ChaletFan for alerting me to this exhibition.
  • Seven Stories currently has two exhibitions: Moving Stories – Children’s Books from Page to Screen and Twists and Tails – the Story of Angelina Ballerina (both until April 2015)
  • The Dean Clough Galleries in Halifax are home this summer to Bear With Me – 30 illustrations including some by Neal Layton, David Roberts, Chris Riddell, Alex T Smith, Chris Haughton, Emma Chichester Clark all featuring a fat(-tish) red bear.
  • Wolverhampton Art Gallery is hosting A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell, perfectly timed to enjoy along with the release of the film How to Train Your Dragon 2

  • Last week I treated myself to an morning exploring the Island of Berk and reacquainting myself with just how one goes about training a dragon by visiting Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell


    The exhibition originated at the marvellous Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books and is now slowly touring the UK (in 2015 it will be in the National Museums, Northern Ireland and The Dick Institute, Kilmarnock, whilst in 2016 it will visit Norwich Castle Museum and Tullie House, Carlisle).


    Based around Cressida Cowell’s How to Train your Dragon series, the exhibition is packed with original illustrations, both draft drawings and finished artwork, notebooks and video interviews, audio clips and [you have been warned!] …dragons.



    There’s a viking long boat you can climb in and sail away on, there’s a camp fire for telling stories around, there’s dressing up and there are books you can just sit and enjoy reading.





    The dragons are very keen to be played with, though some are scarier than others!



    I think kids will love seeing some of Cressida’s school work – a descriptive piece she wrote with comments from her teacher on how to improve it!


    I love showing kids how even very successful authors “uplevel” (to use my girls’ schools’ favourite bit of literacy jargon) their work; it’s completely normal to revise, edit and improve. That’s why this little note caught my eye:


    I was delighted to see that some dragons love reading!


    Something about these little girl vikings really caught my eye:



    The exhibition has a great mix of open space – allowing kids to rush around playing with the dragons and climbing aboard the long boat – and fascinating artwork and notes from the author that are worth spending time really looking at closely. If you don’t know the books, you’ll get a great flavour of them and the kids will still be able to enjoy the exhibition because there are plenty of things to do, including lots of buttons to press. If you DO know the books, it is really exciting to see the art work and something of the development of Cowell’s ideas. It’s also pretty fun to cuddle the dragons!


    Snuck in between information on Dragonese and the Hooligan Initiation Programme there’s also some factual background to the vikings which was nice to see. There’s a special section devoted to the How to Train Your Dragon films and my plan is to take the girls to the exhibition one morning during the summer holidays and then to the film in the afternoon 🙂 Would you like to join us?

    The exhibition is FREE and runs till August 30th. It’s well set up for people with hearing impairment, with all the videos either signed or subtitled. The cafe in the museum is one of the best museum cafes I know and the rest of the museum is really well geared up for families, with lots of hands-on activities in every space.

    Full details:

    Are there any children’s book themed exhibitions on near you in your part of the world? Please do let me know – even if I can’t visit them, I’d love to know about them!

    8 Responses

    1. Katherine

      We’re off to Cartwright Hall tomorrow, should be as exciting as Le Tour for Bagl! There is an exhibition about stories and books on at Kirkcaldy Galleries, the leaflet I picked up wasn’t especially specific but we’ll be going in the next couple of weeks, their summer exhibition for children last year was very good so hoping for good things.
      Katherine recently posted..9 years ago

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