News round-up, July 2013

A quick round-up of the fantasy-related news items that have been published over the last thirty days.

George RR Martin defends decision to cast Pedro Pascal as the Red Viper in Game of Thrones series
Pedro Pascal, who will play the Red Viper in the Game of Thrones series.Writer Martin said he wasn’t at the Chilean actor’s audition, but that he thought Pascal would be ‘wonderful’ as Oberyn Martell. Responding to fans’ complaints that Pascal does not have the right colouring to play the Red Viper, Martin wrote on his blog: ‘I wasn’t present for Pedro Pascal’s audition, but I understand that he really killed it with his reading. ‘And since his casting was announced, the producer of another TV show on which he appeared recently has written me to say how terrific Pascal is, and to congratulate us on the casting. So I suspect that he will turn out to be a wonderful Red Viper.’ he writer also discussed the ‘racially and ethnically diverse’ cast of the TV adaptation of Game Of Thrones. It is true that we’ve lost several black characters who appear in the novels. But to balance that, characters like Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati) and Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) – both white in the books – have been played by black actors.’
Source: Metro

Change of Eastern Regional Director of SFWA
Catherynne M. Valente has announced her resignation as the Eastern Regional Director for SFWA. She said, “It was a rewarding and challenging experience to work with a group of dedicated, tireless advocates, but personal circumstances have brought me to the realization that I cannot serve out the remainder of my term effectively. I thank the Board for their service and support, and will continue to be an active member of the organization.” The president, with the confirmation of the board, has appointed E.C. “Eugene” Myers to serve out the remaining year of the Ms. Valente’s term.
Source: SFWA

J.K. Rowling Renews Call for U.K. Press Regulation
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is among the signatories of a letter urging Britain’s culture secretary to push through press regulation reforms that have been delayed following last year’s recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry into U.K. media standards and ethics. Rowling, Jude Law’s former publicist and 24 other victims of press abuse signed a letter about the topic from activist group Hacked Off, whose supporters include Hugh Grant. It was addressed to culture secretary Maria Miller. "It is more than three months since all parties in parliament gave their backing to the cross-party royal charter closely based on the Leveson recommendations," the open letter said. "We urge you to recall that the March 18 charter has the backing of parliament, is founded on the recommendations of a duly constituted public inquiry that painstakingly took account of the views of all stakeholders, and is supported by the great majority of victims of press abuses." It added: "Standing in opposition to this are representatives of parts of the press, and in particular of a part that was found by the public inquiry to have ‘wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people.’ In short, a tiny if powerful vested interest with a record of causing harm to the public is challenging the democratic will of parliament." The letter concluded that "it would be appalling if such people, in defiance of the will of the rest of society, were allowed to delay the implementation of a government policy" that has the support of parliament.
Source: Hollywood Reporter

Humble Ebook Bundle II: name your price for Last Unicorn, Wil Wheaton, Lois McMaster Bujold and more
Cory Doctrow: It’s time for another Humble Ebook Bundle! Once again, I was honoured to serve as volunteer curator of the Humble Ebook Bundle, a project from the Humble Indie Bundle people who’ve made Internet history by bundling together awesome, DRM-free media and letting you name your price for it. We did the first Humble Ebook Bundle last fall (with my novel Pirate Cinema) and made over $1.25 million in two weeks (!). The new Ebook Bundle is even cooler. Here’s the line-up:

  • The Last Unicorn (deluxe edition), by Peter Beagle
  • Just a Geek, by Wil Wheaton
  • Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
  • Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  • Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson
  • Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold

As with all the bundles, there is a secret stash of releases in the wings for week two; if your payment is higher than the average at the time you make it, you get them for free (and they are sweet!). Otherwise, you can always get them by topping up your payment. And as always, there’s charities involved — you can earmark some or all of your payment for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Child’s Play, and the Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.
Source: Cory Doctrow on Boing Boing

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman returns for prequel
A quarter-century after his ground-breaking Sandman comic was launched, Neil Gaiman is returning to the character that made him famous with a six-issue prequel about Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams. Gaiman – currently basking in the glory of phenomenal reviews and booming sales for his first adult novel in eight years, The Ocean at the End of the Lane – has penned a limited series that tells a new story about the much-loved character he created for DC comics in 1988 and which ran for 75 issues. Sandman was initially published as part of the main DC comics line but in 1993 was incorporated into the publisher’s new Vertigo imprint which offered edgier, more adult comics. The first issue introduced Morpheus, or Dream, one of the immortal siblings known as the Endless. The ruler of a kingdom known as the Dreaming, the character was an instant hit, and when Gaiman introduced Dream’s sister Death as a cocksure goth girl he won over a legion of fans seemingly for ever. This October sees the first issue of the new comic, Sandman: Overture, produced with artist JH Williams III, 25 years since the first issue of Sandman (it had a January 1989 cover date but was published in October 1988).
Source: The Guardian

Michael Morpurgo reveals he’s writing a new book set in Scilly
St Helens, as seen from Bryher.He wasn’t giving too much away about the story, which is about the uninhabited island of St Helens, only to say it’s set during the First World War and is connected to the sea and America. He said it was an extraordinary story to come across and he’s returning to the islands in September to continue with the book. Michael says he works better when he’s close to the landscape he’s writing about. Mr Morpurgo, a regular visitor to Bryher, made a special appearance at the new Porthcressa Library yesterday. He read extracts from his book ‘The Wreck of the Zanzibar’ set in Scilly, to a specially invited audience of youngsters.

Margaret Atwood and Mohsin Hamid in new season of BBC World News ‘Talking Books’
BBC World News has launched a new season of Talking Books, the in-depth interview programme featuring international bestselling authors from around the globe. From Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood to Children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo, American historical novelist Tracy Chevalier to Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid, the 12-part series explores the best of 21st century fiction writing. The first episode has kicked off with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), was awarded the 2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction. Chimamanda’s latest novel, Americanah (2013) focuses on romance, race and identity following a young woman’s journey from Nigeria to America. Presenters Razia Iqbal and Gavin Esler uncover the themes that run through each writer’s work, the characters they have invented and the development of their writing style. It airs weekly on BBC World News every Saturday at 1.00pm and Sunday at 6.00pm.
Source: BBC World

The Seventh Son Release Date Pushed Back Again
Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes in The Seventh Son.Legendary Pictures’ adaptation of Joseph Delaney’s young adult novel, The Spook’s Apprentice, which has been retitled The Seventh Son for the big screen, has been delayed until 2014. The film was originally slated for a February 15th, 2013 release, but, as you may have noticed, February came and went without The Seventh Son appearing in theatres. In May 2012, the release was set back to October 18th, 2013, and as the first images and details of the film were unveiled online. Variety now reports that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. have decide to part ways rather than extend their distribution and co-financing partnership, and it’s believed that this may have contributed to The Seventh Son‘s release being delayed once more, this time to January 17th, 2014.
Source: Screen Rant and Variety

First-ever sketches of Winnie-the-Pooh tipped to fetch at least £600,000 at auction
Ink drawing of Christopher Robin asleep with Pooh lying on his bed is among the collection.The first-ever sketch of children’s favourites Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin by famed illustrator E.H. Shepard has come to light for the first time in 90 years. The ink drawing accompanied Pooh author A.A. Milne’s poem ‘Vespers’ and shows Christopher Robin asleep in bed with a teddy bear lying on his back on the quilt.
It is part of a set of eight original Pooh drawings from private collections around the world tipped to fetch more than £600,000 at auction. One other original Shepard illustration is the iconic 1926 work from Winnie-the-Pooh of Christopher Robin pulling his bear up the stairs by its leg. An almost-identical sketch showing the boy dragging Pooh down the stairs that was owned by the late film director Michael Winner sold last December for £139,250. The Sotheby’s auction is being held on July 10 in London.
Source: Daily Mail

Best-selling authors including Julia Donaldson and Joanne Harris vow to promote independent bookshops
Top-selling authors including The Gruffalo writer Julia Donaldson, Joanne Harris and Kate Morton are planning on altering their websites to link to independent bookshops following complaints that they only promote Amazon and chain retailers. The changes follow claims by an independent bookshop owner in The Bookseller that best-selling writers support the likes of W H Smith and Waterstones “without giving a fig” for struggling smaller shops. Keith Smith, of Warwick and Kenilworth Books, said Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Alison Weir, Ian Rankin, Tom Holland and Patrick Ness are among those who have ignored independent retailers. “Many of these are authors who, when asked, will say they couldn’t imagine life without their local bookshop,” he said. “But words need to be matched by deeds if they are to make a difference.” Julia Donaldson said she had been “feeling guilty” about not having links to independent shops, but added that, “when I first set up my website, this is what was suggested to me would be the easiest thing to do.” Her “online presence” is now under review, according to her publisher.
Source: The Independent

HCB to publish posthumous Diana Wynne Jones tale
HarperCollins Children’s Books fiction publishing director Ruth Alltimes has bought a posthumous novel by fantasy novelist Diana Wynne Jones, The Islands of Chaldea, completed by her sister Ursula Jones. Alltimes acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from agents Laura Cecil and Celia Catchpole and plans to publish a "gorgeous" hardback edition in March 2014. The Islands of Chaldea is about a young girl and her bossy White Witch aunt fighting to free a king’s son held to ransom behind an enchanted forcefield, encountering a giant invisible cat and a fiery lizard along their way. HCB called it a "uniquely humorous picaresque adventure".
Source: The Bookseller

And finally…

27 well-known extracts taken from J. R. R. Tolkien’s life and works:

National "Summer Reading Challenge" now underway

Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson has launched a national ‘Summer Reading Challenge’ for every child to read six books from their local library.

At Lewis Carroll Children’s Library in London, Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson launched the challenge, which is organised by the national charity The Reading Agency and run in libraries throughout Great Britain from Saturday 14 July until September.

The launch coincides with the publication of new research commissioned by The Reading Agency and carried out by Ipsos MORI, which found that less than two-thirds of parents (61%) of primary school age children have registered their children at their local library, or borrowed books to encourage their children to read. The Summer Reading Challenge is for every child aged 4-11 years to read six books of their choice from their local library during the summer holidays. Children earn stickers along the way and get a certificate or “Olympic style” medal when they complete the Challenge. Over 20 popular children’s authors are supporting the campaign including award-winning writers Malorie Blackman, Julia Donaldson, Charlie Higson, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen and Jacqueline Wilson.

“The Summer Reading Challenge brings together two of my favourite things – reading and libraries. It’s free, it’s a fun thing to do in the summer holidays and it’s going to create lots of life-long readers. So let’s get hundreds of thousands of children joining in and earning ‘Olympic style’ medals,” said Julia Donaldson.

“We must not deny a single child the library’s help – children who use libraries are twice as likely to be above average readers. No home library can ever provide the rich reading support on offer in public libraries. Let’s make this summer one about building a fairer society by introducing every family to libraries‘ vibrant, motivating support to help turn children into readers for life,” added Miranda McKearney, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency.

The research, which was carried out by Ipsos MORI amongst 504 parents of primary school aged children, also found that almost half of parents surveyed (48%) think electronic items such as iPads and Kindles encourage children to read more. A quarter of parents (26%) have bought their children an electronic reading aid such as a Leap Frog Tag or LeapPad, V-Tech and 16% have either bought their child an E-Reader or Tablet or let them use theirs to read.

This is a great initiative and is being run in 97% of all libraries. For more information, visit

The battle for ‘best children’s book of the past decade’

Fantasy Book Review favourites Michael Morpurgo and JK Rowling will battle to see their titles declared the best children’s book of the past decade, which will be decided by viewers of BBC series Blue Peter.

The nominated books in full are:

  • Alex Rider Mission 3: Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Series Of Unfortunate Events: Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
  • Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by JK Rowling
  • Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
  • Young Bond: SilverFin by Charlie Higson
  • Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt
  • Horrid Henry And The Football Fiend by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Tony Ross
  • Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Mr Stink by David Walliams, illustrated by Quentin Blake
  • Theodore Boone by John Grisham

The winner will be announced alongside the annual Blue Peter book of the year victor on a special book-themed edition of the CBBC show on March 1.

“Children care as much about books as adults do – if not more so. We wanted to capture that by creating a vote to find out which book from the last 10 years they love the most.  Normally I’m all for playground harmony, but if on this occasion there is the odd playground argument about which book is better, then bring it on,” commented Blue Peter programme editor Tim Levell.

Children’s best loved war stories illuminated in Once Upon A Wartime

IWM North Special Exhibitions Gallery, 11 February 2012 to 2 September 2012

Thrilling tales of loyalty, separation, excitement, survival and identity are brought to life in this major exhibition for children and adults alike. Some of the best loved children’s stories about war are illuminated at IWM North in Manchester, part of Imperial War Museums, through interactive activities and unique objects from conflict.
The free exhibition, specially created by IWM, is filled with all the drama of five acclaimed novels: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier and Little Soldier by Bernard Ashley. Explore these perilous stories alongside the history of real life conflicts from 1914 to the present day – all through the eyes of fictional children.

Please Help the Horses posterOn display for the first time at IWM North are objects straight from the set of the major new War Horse film directed by Steven Spielberg, revealing how the book became a Hollywood film. See the jacket worn by British actor Jeremy Irvine who plays Joey’s owner Albert, helping bring the story to life for families. Also on display are three pages of Spielberg’s script and the receipt used in the DreamWorks film when Emilie’s grandfather buys Joey.

A tail fin from a German incendiary bomb, a First World War training horse, evacuee labels and aircraft recognition cards are just some of the objects that reveal the reality behind each of these children’s tales. From 1914 to the present day, the stories are set in their historical context.

Personal objects belonging to each author reveal the truth behind the stories. See the silver sword paperknife that belonged to Ian Serraillier and the painting of Topthorn the horse from Michael Morpurgo’s kitchen that inspired War Horse. Early manuscripts, sketches, photographs and recorded author interviews expose the inspiration for each novel.

Take a journey into the magical and dangerous world of each book. Walk through images of the bleak landscape of no man’s land from War Horse and see if you can lift as much weight as Joey the horse had to carry.

Pull up a chair in Hepzibah’s kitchen where the scene is set straight out of Carrie’s War and crawl into the gang’s secret fortress from The Machine Gunners.

Explore a model of the cellar school from The Silver Sword, hidden under the destroyed streets of Warsaw, then follow the children’s voyage across Europe to find out what you would do if faced with the same dilemmas.

Immerse yourself in the imposing tower blocks of London’s gang warfare in Little Soldier, as the exhibition encourages a passion for reading in visitors of all ages.

Supported by Waterstones and Soreen, Once Upon A Wartime opens at IWM North on 11 February 2012 and runs until 2 September 2012. Grab a trail pack to help families fully explore the exhibition, then pick up a range of children’s books from the Museum shop. Get creative with free reading and storytelling activities for families on offer from February to August.

For more information visit

"These extraordinary works of fiction help us all to see war through a child’s eyes and we are bringing them to life in this exhibition. We hope our hands on, creative activities will encourage and inspire an interest in reading, writing and storytelling for whole families," comments Jim Forrester, Director of IWM North.

Fantasy news round-up: October 3, 2011

Here is a round-up of events in the fantasy-related literary world over the past week or so.

JK Rowling honoured by Edinburgh University
The Harry Potter author received the University Benefactor’s Award for her financial contribution to multiple sclerosis research at the Scottish institution. Rowling donated 10 million pounds ($16 million) to establish the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, named after her mother, who suffered from MS, The Independent reported.

And Rowling’s good work does not stopped there and she is also helping in the battle against deforestation. When approached about protecting Canada’s ancient trees from the escalating hungry demand for wood to turn into throw away paper products, Rowling was keen to promote the use of environmentally friendly paper.

“The forest at Hogwarts is home to magical creatures like unicorns and centaurs. Because the Canadian editions are printed on Ancient Forest Friendly paper, the Harry Potter books are helping to save magnificent forests in the Muggle world, home of magical animals such as orangutans, wolves and bears. It is a good idea to respect ancient trees, especially if they have a temper like the Whomping Willow.”

Details of Game of Thrones RPG revealed
Cyanide Studio, having just finished their RTS; A Game of Thrones: Genesis, is now hard at work on an RPG set in George RR Martin’s fantasy universe. Drawing inspiration from several BioWare titles. The combat uses what he called an “active pause system,” which he compared to the battle system from BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic.

The Game of Thrones RPG is slated for release in early 2012 on consoles and PC.

Shortlist for children’s fiction prize announced
The shortlist for The Guardian Children’s Fiction prize: has been announced:

  • My Name Is Mina, by David Almond;
  • Return to Ribblestrop, by Andy Mulligan;
  • Moon Pie, by Simon Mason;
  • Twilight Robbery, by Frances Hardinge.

A few days ago we covered this shortlist in greater detail, including extra information on the books and those judging the competition. The post was entitled Shortlist for the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize announced.

Spielberg’s War Horse scheduled for 13 January 2012 UK release
Michael Morpurgo‘s popular 1982 novel tells the story of Joey, a horse who begins life on the Narracott family’s farm in Devon and ends up being sold to the Cavalry for use in the First World War. But farm hand Albert Narracott cannot forget his former partner, and he ends up joining the army to try to find Joey and bring him home.

In the film, Jeremy Irvine stars as Albert while Tom Hiddlestone plays Captain Nicholls, the cavalry officer who rides Joey into combat. The movie was shot on location in Hampshire, Devon, Wiltshire, Surrey, Wales and parts of France.

Google to support new festival Word Up!
Google is to support a new family arts and literature festival, which is taking place during autumn half term in London. The internet giant will make 300 tickets to main theatre events at Word Up! available to low-income families referred to organisers through partner organisations such as Kids Company and the National Literary Trust’s London Literacy Champions scheme. The festival will run from 22nd-24th October.

Events will also include family workshops with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and interactive storytelling of Peepo!, The Moomins and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There will also be workshops, stalls and a community stage.

Walden Media’s exclusive ‘Narnia’ film option expires
It has been reported that Walden Media no longer has exclusive rights to the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia books. According to the website NarniaWeb, during the negotiations between Fox, Walden, and the CS Lewis Estate, the film option that Walden Media owned was allowed to expire and Walden Media no longer has exclusive purchasing rights to any further Narnia films. This has been confirmed to us by representatives of the CS Lewis Estate.

Random House Children’s Books buys Fallen tie-in
Random House Children’s Books has bought an original novel by Lauren Kate that is connected to her paranormal romance series Fallen. Fiction publisher Annie Eaton and editorial director Becky Stradwick bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Michael Stearns and Ted Malawer of Upstart Crow Agency. Fallen in Love will be published on 2nd February 2012 ahead of Rapture, the fourth and final book in the Fallen series, which is lined up for June. Fallen in Love features four intertwined stories featuring characters from the series.

Donaldson joins fight for Surrey’s libraries
A group campaigning to save Surrey libraries has received support from an award-winning author. Julia Donaldson, children’s book playwright and the National Children’s Laureate, has added her support to Surrey Libraries Action Movement and their Love Your Libraries Campaign. Friends of Bagshot Library are against the closure of a host of libraries including Bagshot, Lightwater, Frimley Green and Ash that Surrey County Council propose to force local communities to run, or be closed. Under Surrey’s plans, volunteers would be able to take over the day to day running of the libraries, saving £300,000 a year.

"I am in full support of Surrey Libraries Action Movement and their Love Your Libraries Campaign. Libraries need trained librarians just as schools need trained teachers and hospitals need trained doctors. Volunteers may have a role to play, but to staff a library exclusively with volunteers is not the way forward,” said the author of The Gruffalo.

Pullman continues to fight for Oxford’s libraries
His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman has made an impassioned plea to save libraries in Oxfordshire and has warned that volunteers cannot replace professionals.

Pullman, whose attack on council plans to stop funding 20 of 43 libraries last year launched a mass campaign, admitted County Hall’s new proposals were an improvement.

“The trouble is, people the council are relying on to jump in and volunteer are already doing dozens of other things, volunteering at hospital friends groups or training primary school football teams. You cannot go on relying on volunteers to do professional work. There seems to be a rather disparaging view of librarians that all they do is tidy the shelves and stamp the books. It is far more than that, it requires pretty stringent professional training. It is not something you can just pick up after an hour or two,” said the award-winning author.

The council was forced into a U-turn in May, after thousands of people opposed plans that would have caused many branches to close. County Hall now proposes to keep all 43 libraries open but ask volunteers to make up a third of staff at five branches and two-thirds at 16 others.

Michael Morpurgo wins the Red House book award (for the third time!)

The Red House children’s book award, which is voted for by young readers, has been won by Fantasy Book Review favourite Michael Morpurgo. This achievement marks the third win for the former Children’s Laureate, who won the prestigious prize in 2004 for Private Peaceful and also in 2000 for Kensuke’s Kingdom.

The 2011 award was his novel Shadow, which is the story of Aman, as told in his own words – a boy from Afghanistan fleeing the horror of the Afghan war. When a western dog shows up outside the caves where Aman lives with his mother, Aman is initially repulsed – it is not customary for people to keep dogs as pets in his part of the world. But when Aman and his mother finally decide to make a bid for freedom, the dog Aman has called Shadow will not leave their side. Soon it becomes clear: the destinies of boy and dog are linked, and always will be.

"Shadow was a difficult book to write because I was writing about a contemporary conflict. I was conscious of the fact that there are families of soldiers who are fighting now in the war and dying in it. So there is a sensitivity that is raw and real. I wrote Shadow, as I do with all my books, because I felt so passionately about the subject – the detention centres and the suffering of war. I felt compelled to write it but wasn’t sure how it would be received. Winning this award, voted for by so many readers, means such a lot," commented Morpurgo shortly after receiving his award.

Michael Morpurgo honoured for his contributions to rural life

Michael Morpurgo, acclaimed author of War Horse, King of the Cloud Forests and Kensuke’s Kingdom, has been honoured by the West Devon council for his contributions to rural life.

Image: farms for city children logo

Now a Freeman of the Borough of West Devon, Morpurgo has been credited with bringing "honour and distinction" to the value of rural life. Alongside his wife Clare he set up the charity Farms for City Children in Iddesleigh in 1976. The charity aims to expand the horizons of children from towns and cities all over the country by offering them the chance to spend a week in the countryside on one of the three farms – in Pembrokeshire, Devon and Gloucestershire.

"Michael and Clare Morpurgo and their team have achieved a remarkable experience for inner city children, introducing them to our rural way of life," explained the Mayor of West Devon, Councillor John Hockridge.

Michael Morpurgo has written more than forty books and won the Whitbread Award, the Smarties Award, the Circle of Gold Award, the Children’s Book Award and has been short-listed for the Carnegie Medal four times. His novels have been adapted for film (My Friend Walter, Why the Whales Came) and stage (including, Kensuke’s Kingdom for the Polka Theatre and Why the Whales Came for Alibi). Michael received an OBE in December 2006 for his services to literature.

War Horse, the incredibly moving story about one horse’s experience in the deadly chaos of the first world war, has become one of the most popular plays in the West End and on Broadway, and a film adaptation of the story directed by Steven Spielberg will be released later this year.

Winners of Wicked Young Writers’ Awards announced

The five winners of the inaugural WICKED Young Writers’ Award have been announced at a special ceremony in London.

Launched in February of this year by long-running West End musical WICKED, the award was separated into five categories, aiming to recognise excellence in writing whilst encouraging creativity and helping develop writing talent in young people from across all backgrounds and areas of the UK.

The winners were:

  • 5-7 Age Category: Rhiannon Paton for Ruby, The Raven Who Liked Raisins;
  • 8-10 Age Category: Matthew Burson, Over That Dune & Growing Up;
  • 11-13 Age Category: Caitlin Jenkins, A Toast To Art;
  • 14-16 Age Category: Danny Tate, Ethel;
  • 17-25 Age Category : The Gregory Maguire Award: Laura Wright, Reflections.

The ceremony was held at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in the West End of London and the prizes were presented by the Duchess of Cornwall and authors Gregory Maguire and Michael Morpurgo.

“I hope the award will bring the passion and energy of WICKED’s amazing theatrical show and its ability to reach across age-ranges and backgrounds, to young people and their writing. With the encouragement of their teachers and families and the excitement of this kind of challenge, we will see original and creative writing coming through from children of all backgrounds and abilities. Let’s hope that many, many young people will be encouraged to begin their own storytelling journeys,” commented Morpurgo before the ceremony.

War Horse adaptation begins shooting

Director Steven Spielberg began shooting his big-screen adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo book War Horse this week. The movie’s script has been written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, with Jeremy Irvine set to play Albert and Emily Watson and David Thewlis his parents.

Image: A production of War Horse for the stage.

War horse tells the touching story of a farm boy, Albert, who sells his horse, Joey, for service in World War 1. Joey decides to travel to France to retrieve his horse.

The book was first published in 1982 and what’s astonishing is that War Horse made it this far at all. Morpurgo admits it did nothing spectacular for years.

“It nearly won a prize but failed. It was translated into three or four languages. It was published in America and didn’t succeed. It stayed in print – just about – for about 25 years. It simply was not a book that anyone really knew about or cared about,” he told the BBC.

All that changed when it came to the attention of the National Theatre, which was on the look-out for an animal-centric drama. The show opened in 2007 to widespread acclaim since when Michael Morpurgo has seen it more than a dozen times. When it ended its run at the National Theatre prior to the West End, his wife Clare arranged a special treat. The National allowed the author of the book and former Children’s Laureate to have a part in the play.

And then Steven Spielberg came knocking on the stable door.

“Steven Spielberg was wonderfully engaging and inquisitive about the whole history of it,” Morpurgo recalls. “It was the most spellbinding thing to sit across the table from one of the world’s great storytellers.”

And then, in 2009, came the continuation of the story in Farm Boy, a book which Morpurgo was partly urged to do by children, who kept writing to him wanting to know what happened to Joey, the requisitioned horse, after the war was over.

Farm Boy provides the answer.

The book has now been adapted for stage by Daniel Buckroyd of New Perspectives; a small Nottingham-based travelling company of the sort Morpurgo thinks is England’s true theatrical glory. It’s a 65-minute show for slightly younger children than War Horse – the seven to 87 age bracket. Its theme is a partly a somewhat Soviet boy-meets-tractor love affair.

Its real star, however, is not Joey the horse but a rusty Fordson, a regular pin-up in Classic Tractor magazine. The mock-up vehicle and a cast of two, grandfather and boy, are poised to chug into the Edinburgh Festival, telling the story of Joey’s farm days once safely back from the Western Front. The story is set in the same Devon parish where Morpurgo lives. “I’m passionately fond if it. Actually I think it may be my favourite book,” he says.

Farm Boy is on at the Edinburgh Suite, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, from 5 – 30 Aug prior to an autumn UK tour.

Morpurgo to visit newly re-opened Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

Image: Michael Morpurgo Michael Morpurgo, former Children’s Laureate, and author of classic stories such as War Horse, Private Peaceful, Kensuke’s Kingdom, Butterfly Lion and many others, will be visiting the newly re-opened Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Nailsworth later this month Michael will be formally opening the new shop, signing books and meeting his fans.

The event will be taking place at 11.00am, on Saturday 10th July.

“It is fantastic that Michael is going to be able to visit us and help celebrate our new shop. We are tremendously privileged that he is going to be able to come along and spend some time with our customers”, said shop owner Hereward Corbett.

The new shop is at:
17 Fountain Street
01453 – 832555

All details can be found via the bookshops’ website:

Last Saturday Morpurgo went to Beechwood Park School, Markyate. The St Albans born author gave a talk and made presentations at the private school’s annual prize giving evening.

Head teacher Patrick Atkinson said: “Michael Morpurgo’s visit to Beechwood Park will linger long in the memories of all those privileged to have witnessed it. He was very entertaining indeed.”