Of Lions and Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo
HarperCollins Children's Books, 2013. ISBN 9780007523313.
(For all ages) Subtitled A Lifetime of Tales from the Nation's Favourite Storyteller. As the title suggests, this collection of short stories by one of the most popular English writers for children, covers a wide range of subjects. Michael Morpurgo is well-known in Australia too, with so many of his works available here. The adaptation of his famous story, Warhorse, to a stage play and film has furthered our interest in his career. There are twenty-five short stories in this anthology, written over the past 30 years, along with extracts from a further twenty-five of his best-loved novels.
The joys and turbulence of his childhood, the impact of wartime on his family and country, his passion for rural experiences, and his love of animals, art and adventure all emerge in this interesting and charming collection of tales. Morpurgo's language can be deceptively simple; in some ways his writing style is a touch 'old fashioned' but his sentences flow and it is very easy to stay immersed in each of his stories. Some will appeal more to older readers - indeed, numerous stories will be of particular interest to those who have read about Morpurgo - there are numerous stories revealing his own life experiences. This collection can be browsed through, read in detail or one or two can be singled out - in each case, the reader will not be disappointed as the author's sincerity and warmth emerge quite naturally from his storytelling. For a book of nearly 600 pages, the text size and paper choice work well, and helpful copyright details for each entry are included at the back of the book. Illustrations by Quentin Blake, Christian Birmingham, Michael Foreman and others add to the appeal, along with black and white page markers denoting each story.