Went to see Michael Morpurgo talk about his latest book, Listen to the Moon, and glad we did, a master storyteller in the flesh as well as printed word.
When he took questions from the packed audience consisting mostly or children, there were a couple of telling moments. Not only was he wonderful with them, humorous, playful, stern – in fact very like a grandfather or even as one imagines Father Christmas – if one imagines such a person – he was very wise.
War is the subject of several of his books – the first world war in particular – and he prepared the children for the serious and sad facts of the sinking of the Lusitania and apologised for the awfulness. The world needs pacifists. Little is ever said about the sheer misery of war for those who are not fighting. I dare say it is pretty miserable for those who are but their deaths are often couched in glory, counted as the greatest sacrifice – laying down a life for a country. No one is encouraged to think of the struggle of surviving through and after the war for all sides because it is too grim. It is an emotive subject that he treats well for children and adults.
On a lighter note one child asked which of his books he would recommend. Having ascertained an age group he recommended a couple. At the mention of each title a Chinese whisper spread through the audience. ‘I’ve read that.’ I don’t know if Mr Morpurgo could hear that hallowed whisper, but I think he’d have been jolly pleased if he did.
The book is a good read. Like an expert Mr Morpugo guides readers through the highs and lows of the story, preparing them for a lifetime and a lifetime of reading. There is much to recommend the tradition of story telling – and Mr Morpurgo is traditional – especially for children. Rather like pantomime, knowing when to hiss and when to shout ‘it’s behind you,’ knowing what to expect adds to the enjoyment, especially when expectation is then thwarted and instead a surprise awaits.
The event was orgainsed by an independent book shop, Simply Books, at Stockport’s lovely art deco Plaza Cinema, restored to former glory. It was a dismally dingy bingo hall for most of the thirty or so years we lived in Stockport. Restored, it has changed the whole aspect of that part of town and now screens classic films and stages live shows.