For those who don’t know, Michael Morpurgo is the Children’s Laureate and a very prolific and delightful author he is too. I love his books. He writes primarily for children but he doesn’t talk down to them, nor does he shy away from topics which may be difficult – his book “Cool” is about a boy in a coma, while “Private Peaceful” is about a soldier in the first World War who was shot for cowardice. A gifted man, a lovely man, and a man whom it was my priveledge to hear reading from his books, telling about his writing, and sharing his joy of stories last night.
When my ticket arrived at school and I realised that there had also been tickets available for children I was devastated. I’d have loved to take Tiddles. He loves Michael Morpurgo’s books and we’re currently in the middle of reading his choice from the bookshop – Arthur, High King of Britain – at bedtime. He was so jealous that I was to meet the man himself. Michael Morpurgo, that is, not King Arthur (although I think he holds them both in similar esteem). He’s a story-holic, my eldest. But reading is another matter. He loves books but is afraid of words, he struggles to read so it has become a hurdle rather than a pleasure, and one challenge he’d really rather not face thank you very much. So he avoids it. Like the plague. He likes his stories read to him. A visit to see Michael Morpurgo would be like a dream for him.
Now the following can only have been manoevred by someone who loves my boy as much as I know God loves him. Because somehow, somewhere, one of the tickets ordered by the school was not claimed. They’d ordered the right number, everyone who wanted to go had got one, but still one ticket sat on the table unclaimed. I had to ask, didn’t I? I seized the opportunity… and the ticket.
Next step, babysitter, and find some way of recompensing Smudgelet. Babysitter worked out fine – a neighbour was only too delighted to sit. Smudgelet – no problem, because he didn’t see “Robots” at the cinema when his brother went on his date, did he? So his special treat is to be a trip to the flicks. Now then, transport. I was going to share a small car with three others so I contacted the driver to see if she thought we’d squeeze Tiddles in too. “Well, we wouldn’t have done, but S has just phoned to say she’s been delayed and will drive herself there, so there’s a spare seat in my car” !!!
On arrival we find the body of the church (the venue for the event) was full. Remaining choices: the side pews, the balcony or…. the choir stalls right next to where MM was to speak. The choir stalls it was. Right at the front, right by the lectern where he was going to stand….. ideal. And from the moment the great man began to speak, he was mesmerised. He soaked in every moment of the experience, every word of the stories, every detail of the author’s experiences. But to make it just perfect, MM seemed drawn to him equally. He used him to illustrate points, he talked directly to him, he joked with him and about him 😉 and drew him into his talk as though they were long lost friends. Then, as he talked about how his memories and experiences are weaved into his stories, the great man looked straight at my boy with a smile and said “you’re now a part of my memory for ever, just as I am a part of yours. You will never forget meeting me and I will never forget meeting you.” And this for my boy, for whom memory used to be such a frightening thing that he blocked it out and has only over the last six years begun to learn how to use it. He is totally inspired – this great man has touched something deep in Tiddles’ soul and taken him the next step along his journey in one hour’s storytelling.
But what’s more? All the way home in the back of the car, Tiddles read aloud from his new (signed) book, catching at glimmers from the streetlamps to light up the page and not caring that the people in the car were people he only slightly knew. Once home, he raced in to read some more to the babysitter. I saw her to her door while he got changed for bed and when I got back the sneaky thing had settled himself in a corner of the settee and was totally engrossed in the book once again. I know I’ll regret doing this when he’s busy throwing himself around the room this weekend, but I couldn’t resist it – I curled up with him and we read on together.
And today he’s planning to hurry home from school so he can read to me some more.
My boy’s reading. Voluntarily. Independantly. More than just a page, he’s reading and reading on. And he’s loving it! 😀