Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seven Stories: The national home of children's books in Britain

I'm well aware you're probably sick of hearing me babble about how great my trip to Newcastle was. But I couldn't not mention my visit to Seven Stories, the National Home of Children's Books in Britain. How cool is that? So just one more Newcastle post!

Seven Stories displayed a balance of kid-friendly stuff and a rich collection of materials for adults interested in children's books. I visited an exhibit on the production of children's books (acquisition, editing, cover design, etc), the history of Puffin Books from inception to modern day, and an exhibit on picture book author and illustrator Anthony Browne. The museum was full of editorial letters, correspondence, rough sketches--everything involving British children's books, making me realize how much I've absorbed of this world since moving to the UK. The most fascinating tidbit was a letter from a Puffin editor to Robert Westall requesting he omit some of the swearing in the second edition of his debut (and award-winning) novel, The Machine Gunners. Westall did not comply (more about this incident, and other background material about Robert Westall, can be found on Seven Stories' website). The information placards frequently had small text saying such and such additional tidbit, while not on display, could be found in their archives. It made me yearn for a day (or a week!) to crawl around behind the scenes.

But of course the museum had to make room for all their wonderful, kid-friendly attractions, too. The Anthony Browne exhibit was decorated with scenes from his books, so you felt as if you were walking into a picture book, complete with a forest, fun mirrors, and a house. The Puffin exhibit had a Stig of the Dump cave for kids to crawl through. The top floor of the museum was devoted to dress-up and story time, the bottom floor to crafts. And everywhere you looked were baskets of picture books, enabling people to sit down anywhere and read the rest of the story.

Not only is Seven Stories an incredible place to visit (with children or without!), but they do regular events. Shaun Tan spoke the day before I arrived (shoot!). So if you're going to be in the area (or if you need an excuse to visit Newcastle!), you can check out their events calendar.

Is there any other museum like this in the US? One of my writing friends tells me that the Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire (just northwest of London) has a similar vibe. That might be next on the itinerary.

*Both pictures are mine, the top one shows the back of Seven Stories, the bottom the Seven Stories boat.*

6 comments:

  1. Oh, definitely a week is needed here. Can you go for a ride in the Seven Stories boat?

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  2. I love the picture of the boat. There could be story ideas sparked just from that.

    I wonder if there are museums like this in the US? I'm stumped off the top of my head. But probably so.

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  3. I've always wanted to go to England, now I have one more (special) reason!

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  4. Andrea: "Can you go for a ride in the Seven Stories boat?" Hah! A kid after my own heart! I think it's too small, unfortunately, more decoration than practical... though I did see somewhere that it was solar powered, so maybe! Regardless, it would be great for a stuffed animal tea party.

    Karen: It really was a magical place for story ideas. It seems like there SHOULD be a museum like this in the US, but I really don't know. I hope there is or will be some day soon.

    Ann: Oh good, glad to help that trip planning along! ;)

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  5. Can I come and stay with you for awhile and visit all the cool places you go? I haven't been to England in a few years and can't wait to get back there.

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  6. KT: Hah! You make me feel like my life is so much more glamorous than it really is! I'll put the kettle on for you. ;)

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