With the school holidays fast approaching we’ve lined up the best book-related events to keep your youngsters entertained over the summer break.
Roald Dahl 100
2016 marks 100 years since Roald Dahl’s birth in Landaff, Cardiff. Amongst the whoopsy-splunkers celebrations throughout Wales, visit Quentin Blake: Inside Stories an exhibition of illustrations by Dahl’s long-time illustrator at The National Museum Cardiff. Take part in an interactive journey through The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl at the Wales Millennium Centre or stop by the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea for a week of Roald Dahl-inspired events and activities.
The celebrations continue in London; after viewing never-before-seen illustrations at the House of Illustration’s The BFG in Pictures exhibition, why not follow the BFG Dream Jar Trail through the iconic landmarks of the capital and you’ll also find a dream jar in Great Missenden, Roald Dahl’s home village. Whilst in the village, pop into The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre for a packed season of events throughout ‘The Big Friendly Summer’.
Heading north, check out Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park. As well as the ‘Cover to Cover: Roald Dahl Around the World’ exhibition, other highlights include ‘The Magical World of Roald Dahl’ creative writing workshop and a Fantastic Mr Fox Treasure Hunt.
Bookshops offer more Dahl-esque treats with a Phizz-Whizzing Treasure Hunt at Foyles in both Birmingham and Bristol whilst London-based book lovers can enjoy readings from Matilda by a member of the cast of Matilda the Musical.
Of course Roald Dahl’s books are no strangers to the stage and highlights this summer include Matilda the Musical and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical in the West End, James and the Giant Peach at Polka Theatre in Wimbledon and Illyria’s touring performance of Danny the Champion of the World playing venues including Cornwall’s Penlee Park.
The newly-refurbished Discover Children’s Story Centre in London will be re-opening its doors in July and invites you to step inside The Fantastic World of Dr Seuss interactive exhibition, where you can dress up as Thing 1 and Thing 2 and climb onto the Once-ler Wagon.
In Worcester City Art Gallery, the invitingly-named Pirates, Pants and Wellyphants exhibition of Nick Sharratt’s work runs throughout the holidays. Follow Nick’s illustrations from childhood doodlings to original artwork and have a go at working in his studio.
Brush up on your pirouettes as Twists and Tails – the story of Angelina Ballerina opens at Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire. Take a peek at early illustrations by Katharine Holabird and explore ‘Mouse-land’.
This summer the north-west hosts not one, but two exhibitions by leading figures from the world of children’s literature. Don’t miss the final venue on the national tour of A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell in Carlisle. Guided by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, journey back to the Dark Ages and follow his quest to become a hero. In Preston, the Harris Museum hosts Painting with Rainbows – a Michael Foreman exhibition which reflects upon his childhood wartime experiences and explores his work as both an author and illustrator over more than 50 years.
Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, unveils its new Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories exhibition in July, featuring notebooks and original drafts of what would become some of Michael Morpurgo’s most popular books, including Private Peaceful and War Horse.
If you missed it at the British Library, there’s another chance to see Picture This: Children’s Illustrated Classics at the River and Rowing Museum in Oxfordshire, which showcases a wealth of unforgettable children’s books, ranging from The Borrowers to The Wind in the Willows.
From Page to Stage
July 2016 will be etched in the minds of all JK Rowling fans as The Cursed Child stage production revisits the Harry Potter characters. July also sees the publication of the play’s script, with a multitude of late-night openings and events taking place at bookshops across the country.
Thinking of planning a trip to the capital? Take a break from the sightseeing and revive your little ones with performances of The Gruffalo and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. If you’ve read the book and watched the film, get ready for some bloomer-waving action as the Olivier Award-winning The Railway Children continues to wow audiences. Also in London, another children’s classic, The Secret Garden is set to begin a West End run this summer and Michael Morpurgo’s The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips comes to Shakespeare’s Globe. (You can also catch Michael in conversation with Emma Rice, the Globe’s Artistic Director on Sunday 31st July). Young history buffs can explore the gritty side of history with Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain during its West End run.
In Northern Ireland, click your heels three times and head to the Strand Arts Centre in Belfast for The Wizard of Oz. Alternatively, visit The Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre in Armagh for The History of Tom Thumb and The Elves and the Shoemaker (don’t miss out on the Family Super Saturday post-show activities).
In Scotland, Chapterhouse Theatre Company present their production of The Railway Children at Ayr Town Hall.
If you prefer your theatre al-fresco, keep that raincoat handy for the British summer weather! On the North Yorkshire coast, the dramatic backdrop of Whitby Abbey provides an atmospheric setting to performances of Dracula. Another equally stunning English Heritage location – Tintagel Castle – hosts Legends of King Arthur in August.
Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth as Once upon a time there were Four Little Rabbits visits Bridgend whilst, elsewhere in Wales, Peter Pan flies in to the National Trust site at Erdigg. National Trust attractions also provide the backdrop to a range of productions this summer, including The Jungle Book in south London, Gulliver’s Travels in Northumberland and The Three Musketeers in Somerset. An adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s The Smartest Giant in Town will be staged in Cheshire whilst the River Wey and Godalming Navigations provides a suitably aquatic setting for The Water Babies. For a fix of David Walliams’ humour, book your ticket for Ratburger at Killerton in Devon.
It’s impossible to write about literary events over the summer without mentioning the literary behemoth that is Edinburgh International Book Festival. Among the Children’s Laureates past and present who will be appearing are Chris Riddell (delivering the Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture), Malorie Blackman, Julia Donaldson and Jacqueline Wilson. For YA fans, don’t miss John Boyne and Simon Mayo exploring the role of moral responsibility, horror author Darren Shan and Branford Boase Award winner Annabel Pitcher.
If you can’t get tickets to see Jacqueline Wilson, catch her at the Foundling Museum’s Hetty Feather Day in July.
So whilst we can’t guarantee endless sunshine we’ve got the next best thing; a whole host of book-related activities to keep your children entertained over the next couple of months
Clare Burkhill-Howarth organises author school visits through Book Events for Schools. For more updates about book-related summer activities, please follow @ChildBookEvents.