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We are delighted to welcome Michael Morpurgo, one of Britain's most celebrated storytellers and inspiration to generations of children, as our Guest Editor this month. 

He has written over 150 books, won countless awards and was Children's Laureate from 2003 to 2005. His stories cross borders and ages, are loved across the world and translated into many languages. 

Awarded an MBE in 2018 for services to literature and charity, Michael is a passionate advocate for the arts and justly proud of Farms for City Children, a charity founded with his wife Clare.

Find out more about this extraordinary author and his lifetime in the world of children's books.

As Guest Editor, Michael has written a letter to his readers, sharing his experience of lockdown and sending a message of hope for the future.

It’s as if I’ve lived the last months in a dream. And it’s a dream that hasn’t ended yet. I’ve been in shut-down, like so many, and luckier than many, because I’m not alone, I’m not ill, and I have a garden, and there’s the farm beyond where I have been able to go for a walk. 

My wife, Clare, and I have been living in a bubble. We have had wonderfully kind neighbours who have looked after us, and brought us all we needed. We have been able to phone family and friends, zoom them too and we’ve been able to start seeing a few friends and family too now. So, despite the sadness of losing dear friends, of worrying about family and friends who’ve been unwell, we’ve been able to get through this difficult time well enough.

As for my writing and books and plays. Well, of course all the plays, five of them in all, some in rehearsal, some already in production, including the world tour of War Horse, had to be cancelled. But not even this virus could stop me writing. I set myself a rigorous routine each day, because I knew this was the only way I could stop myself thinking of the world outside our bubble that was suffering so much, and still is. Writing has been my way of getting through.

I’ve been writing poetry for my first book of poems, The Carnival of Animals. I’ve been retelling with Clare the plays of Shakespeare. I’ve been writing stories about the farms. I’ve been writing articles for radio and newspapers, and a piece I called ‘A Song of Gladness’, about listening to a blackbird in my garden, whose song took me all over the world as I was writing it. It’ll be a book next year and I’ve been joining in Virtual Festivals with a few coming up in the Autumn. So keep an eye out on my website and come along if you’d like to.

There are a few books out this Autumn – Owl or Pussycat, a picture book with the talented Polly Dunbar, and the paperback of Boy Giant this September. There’s a picture book of War Horse and the Puffin Keeper later in the year for the 80th anniversary of Puffin books so look out for those. 

We all know that behind the clouds of sadness there is always the sunlight of happiness. And we all know that cloudy times, grey times, can seem to go on for ever. But they never do. The sun will come through the clouds, and will shine down on our world again. Let’s make it a better world, a fairer world, for all of us, and for the planet. 

Love from Michael Morpurgo

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We are delighted to share Michael's five must-read recommendations - and he has also picked a special September choice.

Michael's September Top Pick

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup 

There is a whole world inside this glorious book; a poem for every day. This is a wonderful introduction to nature and all our fellow creatures. Within these pages we get to know them better and care for them more. There are poems to read again and again and some even to learn by heart. So when you next meet a tiger face to face, just start reciting the great poem ‘Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright’ and he’ll be mesmerised.

Michael's Top Five Must Reads

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono 

A book for children from 8 to 80. It’s the tale of one man’s dedication to planting trees and how it has a profound effect on a region of South-east France. I love the humanity of this story and how one man’s efforts can change the future for so many. It’s a real message of hope.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

I was not an avid reader at all.   I liked comics and being read to, and listening to stories.  This was the first real book I read for myself.  Jim Hawkins was the first character I identified with totally.   I lived this book as I read it.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

A life-enhancing book and even more amazing because this is the late author's own story, telling of her and her family's flight from Nazi Germany from their home and everything they knew to become refugees, first in Switzerland and then in Paris.

The General by Michael Foreman.

I think this was Michael Foreman’s first book, written and illustrated by him. Written under the threat of the Cold War, it is a powerful and compelling plea for peace, as important today as it ever was.

Charlotte’s Web by EB White.

A extraordinary story, exquisitely written, with unforgettable passages of dialogue and description, that confronts the dilemma of our relationship with farm animals.  Witty, and in places, desperately sad this is a book where animals talk yet remain who they are, themselves.  A book to make you cry.

September sees the publication of two further titles from Michael Morpurgo. This serene image is taken from Owl & Pussycat?, a charming recollection of Michael's earliest stage appearance beautifully illustrated by the supremely talented Polly Dunbar.

You can read more about these new stories reviewed by our experts - Owl & Pussycat and Boy Giant.

Find a selection of Michael's many books below, plus we have been lucky enough to ask him a few questions about his writing, what inspires him and his latest novel, Boy Giant, which you can read here.

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