Coming from a family of actors, bestselling children’s author Michael Morpurgo likes to joke that were it not for a twist of fate he could have been the next George Clooney. In fact, Morpurgo’s has been a life of many careers including some time in the army, heading up a charity and for many years working as a teacher where he loved to read and act out stories for the children. Finally exhausting his supply of other people’s tales he decided to try his hand at writing his own.
Poetry and Gift
The Mudpuddle series
The Farm Boy and the Fisher Poet
Although he began writing as a teacher, it wasn't until he and his wife Clare decided to move to Devon to establish the charity Farms for City Children that his career as an author was really established. Developed with the aim of giving inner-city children a chance to live and participate in a working farm, the charity gave Morpurgo the chance to observe first-hand the close, instructive relationship between children and animals, an experience that inspired him to write the bestselling novel, War Horse.
It was also during this time that he met the poet Ted Hughes, fishing by the river. The two became friends and collaborators, working together to establish the post of Children’s Laureate which Morpurgo later held. Morpurgo recalls how when War Horse failed to win the Whitbread Prize "he [Hughes] took me out for the day, not to console me, but to tell me that I had written a fine book, and that I would write a finer one."
War Child to War Horse
Since then Morpurgo has gone on to write over a hundre books for children from his home in Devon including Why the Whales Came, The Butterfly Lion, Kensuke’s Kingdom and The Fox and the Ghost King. In 2016 he received Action for Children’s Arts’ JM Barrie Award, with the chair of the award commenting that "his work will undoubtedly, like Peter Pan, stand the test of time."
Many of Morpurgo’s novels focus on memories, lives and experiences of conflict, particularly the First and Second World Wars - most notably Private Peaceful and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips. Morpurgo has spoken about the impact the Second World War had on him as a child; ‘I grew up,’ he said, "with the sights and sounds of what that war left behind… I'm still trying to work out why it is that we do it now, after all this time; after two world wars."
Stage and Screen
More recently he has been instrumental in seeing his works take to the stage and screen (sometimes with the author taking a turn himself – perhaps living out that actor’s ambition at last) with War Horse, My Friend Walter and Adolphus Tips being among his works experiencing a second life in performance. Never one to turn down a challenge, he’s even tried his hand at writing libretti.
Now in his seventies, Morpurgo doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and with more appearances on stage planned he seems to be getting into his stride. His motto is it’s, "good to be busy, stops you from getting old - at least that’s what I tell myself anyway."