10 Interesting Facts About Michael Morpurgo

Find out more about the life and works of Michael Morpurgo, former Children's Laureate and writer of over 130 beloved books, including War Horse and Private Peaceful.

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1. Michael Morpurgo was born in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, on 5 October 1943, whilst his father was away fighting in the war.

Michael wouldn't see his biological father, actor Tony van Bridge, until many years later, because during the war, Michael's mother found a new partner: Jack Morpurgo. A divorce between Michael's parents soon followed and Tony van Bridge emigrated to Canada.

2. Michael wouldn't see his biological father until 1961 - and even then, only on television.

On Christmas Eve in 1961, Michael was watching a television adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations with his mother, Kippe Cammaerts, when she suddenly exclaimed that Michael's father was on the screen, playing Magwitch. Michael met his father in person a few years later and the two became very close.

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Maggie Fergusson, Michael Morpurgo: War Child to War Horse, 2012

3. After primary school, Michael was sent off to a boarding school in Sussex - and he hated being away from home.

However, he hugely enjoyed rugby and singing, and continued these hobbies at his next boarding school in Canterbury.

4. Michael joined the army at Sandhurst after school, and whilst he liked the good food and the friends he made, he didn't enjoy being shouted at.

So he decided the army wasn't for him.

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War Horse, 1982

5. In 1963, he married Clare Allen, the daughter of the founder of Penguin Books, Sir Allen Lane.

Before long, they were married, having swiftly fallen in love, and three children soon followed.

6. Michael decided to become a teacher and went to study English and French at King's College, London.

Clare also became a teacher and they spent several years in the profession.

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Private Peaceful, 2003

7. Ten years later, however, Michael and Clare decided to change direction once again, and set up a charity together: Farms for City Children.

They wanted to help children find out more about the world around them and about themselves. The charity offers opportunities for children from the city to spend a week working on a farm together, learning about where their food comes from and exploring the outside world.

8. They devoted themselves to the project for 25 years before handing it over, leaving a fantastic legacy.

Three farms are still ongoing with around 3,200 children and 400 teachers coming to stay each year.

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The Butterfly Lion, 1996

9. Throughout this time, Michael was writing his much-loved books and becoming a brilliant storyteller. He received help in both his literary and charitable endeavours from the renowned poet Ted Hughes and Ted's wife, Carol.

Michael has written around 130 books, including popular bestsellers such as War Horse, The Butterfly Lion, Private Peaceful and Why the Whales Came. Many of his works have been adapted for screen, stage and radio, most notably War Horse.

10. Michael was the Children's Laureate from 2003-2005 and received an OBE in 2006 for his services to literature.

The role of the Children's Laureate was developed by Michael Morpurgo himself, together with Ted Hughes. Quentin Blake was the first Children's Laureate from 1999-2001; Anne Fine took over the position from 2001-2003; and Michael became the third Children's Laureate in 2003.

You can read more about Michael Morpurgo in Michael Morpurgo: War Child to War Horse, and don't forget to check out our full range of Michael Morpurgo books.

  • RWI2 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Running Wild, by award-winning author Michael Morpurgo, tackles some big, contemporary issues including the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest and illegal animal trafficking.

    At the centre of the story is a boy's heart-warming friendship with an elephant who saves his life and a group of orphaned baby orang-utans who see him as a surrogate mother. Readers aged 9 and over will love this adventure story, although there are some sad themes.
  • PVU2 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Michael Morpurgo's novel, Private Peaceful, swoops the reader's emotions up and down in this stirring story of a soldier caught up in the horrors of the First World War.

    Although the story takes place in the space of just one night, there's a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows in store as Tommo recounts anecdotes from his childhood and relives nightmare experiences of fighting in the trenches.

    Private Peaceful won the Red House Children's Book Award and is an essential read for children aged nine and above who are learning about the First World War and how it affected ordinary lives.

    Readers who enjoy Private Peaceful may also like Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian.
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    From the best-loved author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, Shadow is a powerful and treacherous tale of a young Afghan boy, Aman, his mother and canine companion, Shadow the Springer Spaniel.

    After being nursed back to health after appearing in the mouth of the Afghan cave, the trio embark on a dangerous journey from their war-torn homeland to the refuge of a relative's home in Manchester, England.

    A compelling story of courage, love and hope, Shadow is sure to impress both readers aged 7+ and their parents.

    This children's book has been hand-picked for you by Red House.
  • AFWPV 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Three gripping war stories from the front line of children's fiction from Britain's best-loved children's author, Michael Morpurgo.

    War Horse: In 1914, Joey, a young farm horse, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. Friend or Foe Evacuated from London, David and Tucky feel like the war is a long way away from their new life .Then one night the skyline of the moor is lit up with gun flashes, and the distant crump of bombing...

    Waiting for Anya: It is World War II and Jo stumbles on a dangerous secret: Jewish children are being smuggled away from the Nazis, close to his mountain village. Now German soldiers are at the border and Jo must get word to his friends that the children are trapped. Former Children's Laureate and award-winning author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, again demonstrates why he is considered to be the master story teller.

    Each war story in this collection is as powerful, moving and uplifting as the next, with all the charm and humanity we've come to expect from Michael Morpurgo. A fantastic gift book for the young avid reader.
  • BUI2 9 years +
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    The Butterfly Lion by award-winning children's author Michael Morpurgo is a powerful tale that is guaranteed to capture its young readers' hearts.

    At the centre of the story is a moving friendship between a young boy and an orphaned lion cub, but the novel also raises issues of bullying through the experiences of the present day narrator Michael.

    Winner of the Smarties Book Prize, this is a sensitive story that Morpurgo fans aged five and over will absolutely love.
  • WHQ2 9 years +
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    In War Horse, award-winning children's author Michael Morpurgo allows readers to understand the horror of the First World War by recounting the experiences of a farm horse who is commandeered to join the front line.

    The unbeatable storytelling skills of Michael Morpurgo make War Horse a stunning, unputdownable tale that won't fail to move all readers from 9+. As Steven Spielberg's epic film version gained a whole new audience for this stunning piece of literature, there's never been a better time to read the book.
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    Discover the true life story of favourite storyteller Michael Morpurgo, in this biography specially edited for children. Also features seven original Morpurgo stories. We are enchanted by Michael Morpurgo's amazing stories like 'Private Peaceful', 'Born to Run' and 'Kensuke's Kingdom'. And with big screen adaptations of his novels such as 'War Horse' being made into film adaptations by Steven Spielberg, it's no surprise that he's our nation's number one favourite storyteller. But what about the real life story of Michael Morpurgo...? How did a boy supremely uninterested in books, who dreamed of becoming an army officer, become a bestselling author and Children's Laureate? What stories in Michael's own life inspired him to write more than a hundred books for children? In a unique collaboration, Maggie Fergusson and Michael himself explore his life through biography and stories. This is a specially abridged edition of the critically acclaimed biography 'War Child to War Horse', for children. With additional photos not included in the hardback edition, and with a special activities section, this is the perfect gift for any child who has ever loved a Morpurgo story - and there are millions of them out there...
  • ACGTC 10 years +
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    Much-loved award-winning author Michael Morpurgo's Twist of Gold takes the reader on an epic journey through famine, hope and survival.

    Sean and Annie have one chance to escape the potato famine and plague in Ireland. They survive a shipwreck and land safely in America searching for their father. But their new land is one of hardship and they live in poverty on the streets of Boston. However, their adventure is just beginning...they live on a steamboat and then join pioneers travelling across the prairies.

    Their music and dancing bring joy to all they meet, but their family torc brings both blessings and curses and thieves prowl to get hold of it. Annie and Sean must hang on to their torc - their family's survival depends on it.
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    Why the Whales Came is an exciting adventure and friendship story by much-loved, award-winning author Michael Morpurgo.

    Gracie and her friend, Daniel have always been warned to stay away from the Birdman and his side of the island. But then, they find a message in the sand and discover the Birdman is not who they thought.

    They build up a lovely friendship with him, but when the children get stranded on Samson Island they don't know whether to believe the birdman's story that the island is cursed.

    Set on a remote island against the backdrop of World War I, this story will captivate and delight young readers.
  • Michael Morpurgo Collection - 12 Books - Collection - 9780007963027 - Michael Morpurgo
    MCHM 9 years +
    9 years +
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    One of the most popular children's authors around, Michael Morpurgo has won many awards and is a former Children's Laureate. Our latest unbelievable value collection brings together 12 of his beloved books including Farm Boy (the sequel to War Horse), Shadow and A Medal for Leroy.

    Poignant, powerful and heartbreaking reads for children who love animals and are fascinated by the events of war, these books will leave a lasting impression on all who read them. They are exceptionally well written and will show children how powerful humanity can be.

    These touching books are perfect for children aged 9 and over and will help to introduce many important themes that they will encounter over the years ahead.