From Horses to Fantastic Beasts: The Fantastic Journey of Olivia Lomenech Gill

Jacqueline Ho, MLitt Student

Who do you immediately think of when you hear Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? J.K. Rowling? Eddie Redmayne? There is, however, someone else who is worth just as much praise – Olivia Lomenech Gill, illustrator of the latest edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Last week, I had the privilege to celebrate the book’s exclusive launch with Olivia at Seven Stories, a place I’ve longed to visit.

Stepping into the attic, I was completely mesmerised by the atmosphere: warm, welcoming, magical.

Olivia began her discussion on the creative process behind Fantastic Beasts by sharing one of her very  first paintings, a horse, made when she was 6-years-old. Ever since, horses have become her long-term working partner. Before illustrating Fantastic Beasts, Olivia worked with Michael Morpurgo. Where My Wellies Take Me (2012) was her debut illustration project. She was then invited to draw pictures for War Horse. Here is one of them, Standing To: 

After many years of working with horses, Olivia began on Fantastic Beasts, a rather challenging project. Taking roughly eighteen months to complete, Olivia began the project by studying and sketching animals from real-life and Greek Mythology. Some beasts pure products of Rowling’s imagination, Olivia found them difficult to create. Once she had tackled the beasts’ general appearance, Olivia sought to make the creatures believable to the readers, visiting zoos and studying special animal collections and archives.

Living in the generation of technology and social media, computer software like Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are popular among many contemporary designers and artists. When illustrating creatures, many may also choose to take film footage of animals “in the field” for later use. Not Olivia. She prefers the traditional way: working in situ wherever she can with pencil, charcoal and sketchbook.

Olivia believes doing rough sketches by hand somehow helped her to develop an intimate relationship with animals, and thus aids her illustration work. She also makes animal models. For example, to develop her design of the Acromantula, she created a model of a spider-like insect in her studio.

Olivia’s studio also plays a great role in the illustration process. She designed and built her studio, a strong believer that architecture affects one’s working process. It attracts many creatures, such as birds and insects. At times disturbing and troublesome, Olivia was ultimately thankful for their presence throughout this project; it was fitting that in illustrating creatures some live ones should have been present.

What struck – and inspired – me most was Olivia’s modesty and honesty. This project had panicked her, she admitted. I’m not a good illustrator; my drawings aren’t good enough. On the contrary, Olivia truly is a fantastic illustrator. I empathise with her and see my own struggles as a researcher reflected in Olivia’s as an illustrator. Just as Olivia must spend lots of time “in the field”  and make copious preparatory sketches, so in literary studies a researcher must spend lots of time in the library, reading, making notes, forming and employing the right methodology. But when it is something you love – as illustrating is for Olivia and researching for me – take courage, push on through the difficulties and moments of self doubt, do the best you can and you’ll be surprised at just how far you can go.

You can find further examples of Olivia’s illustrations on her website

A Week in the North

Dr Eve Tandoi

At the end of the academic year, the University of Gloucestershire – at which I work – kindly agreed to fund a short writing retreat. At first I thought of taking myself off to an isolated cottage, but then I quickly realised that what I needed after a year working in Initial Teacher Education was to immerse myself in a stimulating and inspiring environment where I was not ‘the lecturer’.

As part of an earlier project I had started exploring the field of children’s theatre. Therefore, I was aware of Dr Helen Freshwater’s work on theatrical representations of children and childhood. I was also aware that Seven Stories housed the playwright David Wood’s extensive archive of original plays and adaptations. The coexistence of archive and individual in a place – Newcastle – that just happened to house a thriving community of children’s literature scholars was simply too good to miss. Dr Lucy Pearson and Professor Kim Reynolds have been incredibly kind – putting me in contact with the archivist Kris McKie at Seven Stories and Dr Helen Freshwater. They also organised for me to attend the talk that Brian Alderson gave at the Philip Robinson Library and to give a talk myself at CLUGG.

The staff at Seven Stories were wonderful and Kris McKie was brilliant at introducing me to the David Wood collection. On learning that I planned to look at material related to six productions, he subtly hinted that I might not quite get through all thirteen archive boxes in the time available. On his suggestion, I started with the boxes related to David Wood’s adaptation of Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958), which kept me busily occupied. I have written more extensively about the work I did there for the Seven Stories Collection Blog (coming soon!). The material related to this adaptation and to many others is incredibly rich and it has provided me with a range of questions and perspectives to consider. Just as a tantalising nugget – I am sure that you are aware of the controversy over casting choices for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but were you aware of the colour-blind casting for the premier of Tom’s Midnight Garden (Unicorn, 2000)?

As well as working within the archives I had a number of opportunities to catch up with friends over the course of the week. When I first arrived at Cambridge to take an MPhil in Children’s Literature, someone told me that the people I met and studied with would become friends for life and I feel incredibly fortunate to still be in touch with so many of them. As Roberta Seelinger Trites once said, “We do not eat our children” and the children’s literature community is an incredibly friendly and stimulating one of which to be a part.

As an author, reviewer, collector and translator of children’s literature, Brian Alderson is perhaps one of the founding figures of the children’s literature community. Therefore, it was lovely to be able to sit back and listen to him speak about a handful of children’s authors and illustrators that I was either unaware of or who I want to know better. The talk was given in honour of the exhibition that he curated for the Philip Robinson Library and that is open over the summer. I particularly enjoyed being reminded of the incredible work that Brian Wildsmith and Charles Keeping have done because I vividly remember pouring over their illustrations as a child. Needless to say, several of the picturebooks that Brain Alderson shared with us are currently winging their way towards me through the post!

My own talk that I gave to the assembled members of CLUGG was tightly focused on a reading event in which a Year 7/8 class read and responded to David Almond and Dave McKean’s The Savage (2008). It was a real luxury to have an hour to present and then discuss the children’s responses to the book and I felt that it provided me with a unique opportunity to ‘dig deeper’ and bring together ideas that had – until then – grown independently. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who came to the talk – the questions you asked have given me so much to think about and I am very much enjoying revisiting my work in the light of them.

I had a wonderful time in Newcastle and it has been such a pleasure to reconnect with children’s literature friends and make new ones. The resources available at the University and at Seven Stories for researchers interested in children’s literature are outstanding and I have come away buzzing, so thank you – yet again – to all those who made my stay to enjoyable.

George Him – and the kindness of strangers

Professor Kim Reynolds

One of the most laborious – and often dispiriting – aspects of preparing a manuscript for publication is obtaining permission to reproduce words and images. However, I had some heartening and illuminating experiences when contacting the estates of the writers and artists whose work I wanted to reproduce in Left Out: the forgotten tradition of radical fiction for children in Britain, 1910-1949 and the companion volume, Reading and Rebellion, an anthology of radical writing for children, 1900-1960 (co-edited with Jane Rosen and Michael Rosen, forthcoming 2017). It seems progressive thinking and generosity of spirit passed on through generations. Many of the creative individuals whose work is central to both books gave their time and talent for free as a way of helping the rising generation prepare for the task of managing the challenges confronting what was then called ‘civilisation’. Those who represent them today were generally excited about the two books and generously gave permission for the work to be reproduced at no cost. More importantly, they also shared information and material about their relations.

An example is Jane Rabagliati, step-daughter of the brilliant graphic designer and illustrator, George Him (1900-1982). As well as giving me permission to reproduce material, Jane invited me to her house to see the archive she has assembled relating to Him’s work, including his fertile professional partnership with Jan Le Witt (1907-1991).

Working under the name Lewitt-Him, the pair, who began working together in Warsaw in 1933, arrived in London in 1937. They had already produced some ground-breaking children’s books such as Locomotive (1938, first published in Poland) based on the text by the distinguished Polish poet Julian Tuwin. Tuwin’s sound-poem is perfectly complemented by the modernist style of the Lewitt-Him illustrations (a new edition of the book will be published by Thames and Hudson later in 2017).

Once in England, the pair created several high-quality children’s books, being among the first illustrators working in the UK to introduce modernist elements for this age-group: their style leaned towards abstraction and borrowed elements from Surrealism and Cubism. A typical example is Blue Peter (1943), with text by Jan Le Witt’s wife, Alina. This story about a blue dog born to a white mother who is persecuted but eventually finds a home on Blue Dog Island is a parable that no doubt appealed to George Him, a Jew who witnessed the Russian Revolution, was living through the persecutions and atrocities of the Holocaust at the time of publication, and was a supporter of the project to create a Jewish state.

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Children’s books were a relatively small part of Lewitt-Him’s output, but after they disbanded in 1955, George Him went on to illustrate a number of popular works on his own. When no longer working as part of a team, his style became more traditional and decorative, but the richness of his palette and the narrative intelligence that informs his compositions is impressive. It is possible to view his illustrations for Frank Hermann’s Giant Alexander books (more than 600,000 copies sold world-wide) at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. Him also worked with Leila Berg on the Little Nipper series; Berg’s archive, too, is held at Seven Stories.
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Several of the books in Jane Rabagliati’s archive were entirely new to me, among them the books about King Wilbur the Third which were among several Him did for television. This link takes you to a page where you can see samples of his television graphics. These are not as innovative as the earlier work, but they capture well the style of the times and the particular fusion of book and television associated with programmes such as Jackanory.

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I wrote a bit about some Lewitt-Him books in Left Out, but there is much more to be said about them and the work of Him on his own. A couple of years ago the publishing wing of the Tate Gallery reprinted The Football’s Revolt, and now Thames and Hudson are reintroducing Locomotive. It seems a good time to be thinking about how, together and singly, Lewitt-Him influenced children’s publishing in Britain.

A Fresher at Fifty

The Occasional Diary of a Mature Postgraduate Student at Newcastle University’s Children’s Literature Unit

Jennifer Shelley

Episode one: deciding to go back to study

At a recent family meal my nephew was bemoaning the difficulty of getting back in the way of studying after taking a year out to gain some work experience.

I’m afraid I just laughed – and told him to try it after 28 years.

Because that’s the gap between my first graduation (in English Literature from Edinburgh) and the decision to study for an MLitt in children’s literature at Newcastle.

So why did I decide to do it? Of the many reasons, the first impulse probably came from children’s books themselves. A long-time collector and enthusiast, I had agreed to give a paper at the Fourth Bristol Conference on Twentieth Century Schoolgirls and Their Books this summer. My talk was on the Drina books by Mabel Esther Allan (written under the name Jean Estoril), a series about a young girl’s fight to learn to dance and subsequent rise to become a ballerina. The books were written between the 1950s and 1990s and most were updated once or twice. What fascinated me was how the books unwittingly provided clues and evidence of the social and other changes that were going on in the second half of the last century – from the building of the Forth Road Bridge to whether it was okay for young girls to go out without a hat and gloves.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the research for the paper and realised that it made me feel very alive – as if my brain was working in a different way, and waking up an enthusiasm I hadn’t felt for a while. It almost felt like a drug and I wanted more of it.

A couple of people asked afterwards whether the paper was part of a formal research programme, which probably planted the seed, but there were other reasons too. Like a lot of people, I’d often vaguely thought about studying for a second degree. I lived through my husband’s PhD (as a mature student) a few years ago so knew it was no sinecure, and had thought it might be something I’d like to do when I retired. But a couple of wake-up calls (in terms of friends’ and colleagues’ early deaths or illnesses) made me think that waiting wasn’t the best plan. Plus, although I enjoy my work (as a freelance journalist and health writer) I’ve been doing it for a long time. All in all, change was in order.

Having made the decision, I then started looking around for the best course. Living in Highland Perthshire, I checked the Scottish universities first, but the only children’s literature courses seemed to be hooked in to education departments, which wasn’t really my interest.

A friend suggested a distance learning MA in children’s literature in the south of England, but the content of the course didn’t particularly grab me – then another friend mentioned the MLitt at Newcastle; it sounded very good.

I’d already checked out the Newcastle University website, partly because I’d heard about its collaboration with Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, and partly because I know and love the area having worked on one of the local newspapers 20 years ago (although I must say the city has transformed since then).

The beauty of the MLitt, or so it seemed to me, was that I could structure it around areas that fitted my interests, rather than what some great authority thought should be part of a children’s literature degree. The course involves writing three or four shorter research assignments totaling up to 24,000 words, then a dissertation of the same length, in a year full-time or over two years part-time. It was also, somewhat to my surprise, given that there is a lot of contact with a dedicated tutor, cheaper than even distance learning options elsewhere. This was a consideration as I’m self-funding.

A telephone call with one of the lecturers, Dr Lucy Pearson, confirmed that this would be a good option for me, so I decided to apply…

 

Did you know Seven Stories is a member of IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People? Earlier this spring CLUGG had the opportunity to explore the latest IBBY Honour List. Learn about it on the Vital North blog

Books from the IBBY Honour Collection. Image: Newcastle University
Books from the IBBY Honour Collection. Image: Newcastle University.

North East Teenage Book Award

Dr Lucy Pearson

The North East has long been a hotbed of activity around children’s books, and one example of that is the North East Teenage Book Award, now in its eighteenth year. I was lucky enough to be invited to this year’s award ceremony, a gala occasion hosted by the Centre for Life. I have a particular interest in children’s book awards – I’m currently working on a history of the Carnegie Medal – so I was excited to be in on the action.

Unlike the Carnegie Medal, the NETBA is judged by teenage readers themselves, and I arrived at the Centre for Life to find it full of excited young readers. The queue for the bookshop (run by our friends from Seven Stories) was a mile long and there was a huge sense of anticipation in the air. This was heightened by the fact that every single one of the shortlisted authors had made the journey to Newcastle for the awards ceremony. After several months in which the young people participating had read and discussed the books, researched the authors, and taken on the hard job of picking a winner, they were clearly thrilled to meet the authors in person.

This year’s shortlist is very varied, running the gamut from historically-tinged fantasy through dystopian thriller to contemporary realism. You can see details of all the shortlisted books, along with short video interviews with the authors, on the NETBA website. I was impressed by the variety of the shortlist, and by the fact that many were first novels. Book awards – both children’s and adults – can often feel as though they are defaulting to the usual suspects, and it was refreshing to see so many new authors on the list. This seems to me to be a huge strength of an award chosen by teenage readers themselves, especially now that the internet makes it so much easier for young people to discover new books directly. As a children’s book professional, I’m only too aware how hard it is for adults to stay current with everything that is coming out – teenagers can be much more responsive.

Each author was introduced by a team of young people, and once again I was struck by how much the teen-centred nature of this award adds to the whole experience. The introductions were all fantastic: well-researched, professional and funny. I hadn’t read any of the shortlisted books beforehand, and I got a really good sense of what they were like and which ones I might enjoy based on these short introductions. Bravo to all the presenters.

The winning novel was Lisa Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal, a dual narrative novel focused on a trans teen. This was a book that was already on my radar, and after the introduction to it at the ceremony it’s definitely moved up my list. One thing I really enjoyed about Williamson’s discussion of her own book was her emphasis on the light-hearted elements of the story – I’ve read quite a few books focusing on trans characters, but they do tend towards the angsty. I’m looking forward to reading Williamson’s book, and the rest of the shortlist.

The North East Teenage Book Award is aimed at ‘Getting and keeping young people reading’ and it’s clear that it’s a massive success. Indeed, although I often hear adults talk with dismay about young people’s lack of interest in reading, this event reminded me that people have been voicing such concerns as long as books have been around. I was struck by the fact that all the authors spoke of the possibilities involved in writing for young people, who they characterised as more open-minded and more flexible in their approach to genre. (This kind of flexibility is certainly one reason why I enjoy researching children’s books.) And based on the young people I met at the award ceremony, reading is far from dead: there are plenty of engaged, adventurous and enthusiastic young readers. I’ll be looking to the NETBA in future to find new and exciting authors to read.

Postgraduate Open Day

Our second Children’s Literature Open Day for this academic year was held on February 8th 2017. It was a great chance to welcome visitors to Newcastle and to showcase the kind of work we do here at Newcastle. We were also lucky enough to welcome Costa Award-winner Frances Hardinge to Newcastle for a public event.

All about the Children’s Literature Unit

We kicked off with an introduction to the Children’s Literature Unit by Dr Lucy Pearson, who is just one of a great team of children’s literature scholars here at Newcastle. Professor Kimberley Reynolds (19th and 20th century children’s literature), Professor Matthew Grenby (18th century children’s literature), and Dr Pearson (modern and contemporary children’s literature) are at the heart of the Children’s Literature Unit, but they are joined by Creative Writing colleagues Ann Coburn and Zoe Cooper – both award-winning authors for children – and by a host of colleague whose work deals with children and childhood, including Professor Kate Chedgzoy (Renaissance childhoods), Dr Helen Freshwater (child performers and family theatre) and Dr Martin Dubois (Victorian nonsense rhyme and fantasy literature). This diverse team takes a whole range of approaches to children’s literature studies, but perhaps the most distinctive aspect of children’s literature at Newcastle is a common interest in historical approaches and book history. In different ways, CLU scholars are interested in how children’s books came to be and how they live in the world.

Alongside the staff who work in this area, there are of course our brilliant postgraduate students, who meet twice a month to share their work (and to create this blog!). Having a thriving group of scholars and students working on different aspects of children’s books means there is always someone to share your ideas with, a chance to learn something new, and a place to get a bit of moral support.

Studying at Newcastle

The Percy Building, home to the School of English at Newcastle University.
The Percy Building, home to the School of English at Newcastle University.

Two of our postgrads came along to share their experiences of Children’s Literature at Newcastle. Masters student Liam Owens spoke about the research he’s been doing on the MLitt in Children’s Literature. Liam says:

“Studying the MLitt is fantastic. It gives me the freedom to research the areas of children’s literature which interest me, and the structuring of the course means I’m able to write on as few or as many topics as I like. This term I’ve just completed a research assignment on the representation of the posthuman in the works of twice Carnegie winner, Patrick Ness. Now I’m in the middle of conducting research on digital story apps and arranging empirical research with a local primary school. Without the MLitt, I would never have been given the opportunity to research children’s literature in such diverse ways.”

One of the illustrations from 'A Monster Calls'.
One of the illustrations from Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls (2011).

Lucy Stone spoke about her PhD research, which draws on the amazing archives at Seven Stories:

I was 13 and beginning to learn German when I first read Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (1971). The story stuck with me over the years. It was at the University of Cambridge while I was undertaking an MPhil in Education that I learnt of Seven Stories here in Newcastle where Kerr donated, along with the manuscripts of her published picturebooks and novels, her childhood drawings, paintings and writings. I was struck by their colour, light and life, which appeared to be in contrast to the childhood of exile I understood Kerr to have led, despite the light and warmth infused in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Newcastle University works in close collaboration with Seven Stories and I was very fortunate to be awarded first a David Almond Fellowship and now a Research Excellence Academy Studentship to study the Collection and find out how and why Kerr’s juvenilia resounds with such joy and shows a humanity and remarkable talent.

Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books, www.sevenstories.org.uk
One of Judith Kerr’s watercolours made as a child, included in her memoir Creatures (2013). You can view the original at Seven Stories.

Seven Stories and the Robinson Library

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Students visit Seven Stories.

One of the most exciting aspects of working on children’s literature at Newcastle is our partnership with Seven Stories: the National Centre for Children’s Books. Archivist Kris McKie came along to share some details of the collection, which now represents over 250 authors and illustrators! You can explore the collection on the Seven Stories website, and if you’re interested in coming to work on archive material keep a look out for our annual David Almond Fellowships, which provide small bursaries to support work on the Seven Stories Collection.

The University’s Robinson Library also has fantastic children’s literature collections, including the Book Trust collection, and an extensive collection of modern and contemporary British children’s books.

Fantasy Worlds with Frances Hardinge

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Frances Hardinge

We were beyond thrilled to finish our Open Day with a fantastic event with Frances Hardinge! Frances’ books are favourites here in the Children’s Literature Unit and when our partners at Seven Stories suggested we might be able to invite her for a joint event we were very excited. The event was an in-conversation with PhD student Aishwarya Subramanian, whose research on British children’s fantasy after Empire has given her lots of thoughts on fantasy worlds and the way that authors play with them.

Frances and Aishwarya in conversation.
Frances and Aishwarya in conversation.

The discussion ranged from the role of the YA writer to the place of the fantasy author in our current political context. Frances spoke about her interest in times of transition: many of her books focus on historical moments of change (the impact of Darwinism in The Lie Tree; the aftermath of World War One in Cuckoo Song) or feature actual revolutions (Gullstruck Island and Twilight Robbery to name just two!). These ideas of transition seem especially relevant now, and Frances spoke about her desire to encourage readers to ask questions and the pleasure of writing for young people, who are naturally given to this.

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Frances also spoke about the flexibility of young readers, which affords her the opportunity to write books which don’t conform to any one genre. In merging genres, she also takes the opportunity to pull in lots of interesting ideas she’s picked up along the way – her approach to history was a great reminder of just how much fun research can be!

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Frances’ spontaneous recitation of the whole of ‘Jabberwocky’, which was word perfect. The poem helped to instil a love of language in Frances at a young age – one which has gone on to enrich and enliven her books. We can’t wait to see which worlds she wanders into next, and whether she finds a good use for place names such as Clenchwarton (a small village in Norfolk).

Find out more

If you’re interested in studying children’s literature at Newcastle, find out more on our children’s literature pages or contact one of the Children’s Literature Unit. If you’d like to know about future public events, join our mailing list.

Exploring the Catherine Storr Archives

Professor Kim Reynolds

I recently completed a project based on the Catherine Storr archives at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle, UK. The task was to find a digital equivalent for visiting Seven Stories for those who can’t travel to Newcastle. The result was ‘The Catherine Storr Experience’: a 3-minute interactive virtual reality exhibition. You can read about it and view the exhibition here.

The Storr archives are a good example of the kinds of materials held at Seven Stories for they contain manuscripts in many formats, correspondence, contracts, illustrations, materials relating to adaptations, unpublished work, books, and memorabilia. The materials were deposited by Storr’s daughters, who loaned additional items and shared memories while the project was being developed. No exhibition can do more than indicate what an archive contains, and the nature of digital media means that the text for ‘The Catherine Storr Experience’ was quite limited. This is an opportunity to say a bit more about Storr, her work, and the shape of the project.

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Before her success as a writer, Catherine Storr (1913-2001) qualified as a doctor, completing her training in 1944, the year her first daughter, Sophia, was born. By this time she had already published a children’s book, Ingeborg and Ruthy (1940) under the pen-name, Catherine Preston.

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Writing had always been her chosen career, and though she worked as a psychotherapist at Middlesex Hospital from 1950-1960, being a mother inspired her to try her hand at writing again. Several of the stories she told, and sometimes turned into hand-made books for her three daughters, found their way into print. These include Stories for Jane (1952 which was originally called Stories for Sophia; Clever Polly and Other Stories (1952), written for her second daughter, Cecilia, known as Polly, and Lucy (1961), dedicated to her youngest daughter, Emma.

Storr’s mother was a talented book-binder and photographer and she bound some of Storr’s manuscripts, including Stories for Sophia, shown here.

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Later Storr assembled books for her children and grandchildren herself. The binding is less expert than her mother’s, but the stories are very amusing. Here is a page from her first attempt called ‘Naughty Sue’. Loosely based on Victorian cautionary tales, this contains the first of the Clever Polly stories.

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Seven Stories also holds some of the manuscripts for the plays she wrote each Christmas for her children to perform in their puppet theatre. Although short, these were fully formed, with stage directions, songs, and special effects. Here’s a page from ‘Jack-and-the-Beanstalk’:

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From the 1970s, Storr was a significant figure on the children’s publishing scene, speaking at academic conferences, contributing to scholarly publications, and reviewing books. Her most popular and enduring works are the Clever Polly stories (1952-57) and the novel Marianne Dreams (1958). Both have been reprinted many times, and Marianne Dreams was adapted for television, stage, and screen as well as being performed as an opera for which Storr wrote the libretto.

A prolific writer, Storr produced more than 30 novels for children as well as a number of picture books, retellings of classic tales, 6 novels for adults, 3 works of non-fiction, some music books for children and 2 libretti. Her last published work, The If Game (2001) was published posthumously.

Although her work is very varied, certain themes recur. For ‘The Catherine Storr Experience’ I decided to focus on the motif of the double or doppleganger, which sometimes involved parallel worlds. The image of the double seems to have fascinated not just Storr, but also her mother. The family photo albums include images of Catherine Storr’s daughters reflected in mirrors or turned into twins using early examples of photographic illusions. Storr’s mother developed and printed these visual versions of doubles. Their textual equivalents fill the pages of Catherine Storr’s stories and novels.

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In her books for younger children, doubles and other selves are often used to explore tensions in families: the desire to be more clever or special than siblings, for instance. For older readers, Storr uses doubles to explore growing interest in (and anxiety about) the opposite sex and as metaphors for the way selves can be lost through illness, drugs, toxic relationships, and despair.

The novels for older readers are often dark and sometimes frightening: Marianne Dreams was turned into the horror film Paperhouse (1989). Ultimately, however, all Storr’s young characters prove resilient, and healthy normality is regained. This combination of optimism and fear arising from emotions arising from aspects of the growing, changing self are grounded in the period in which Catherine Storr was writing. These were the formative years of children’s literature studies, when pedagogic, psychological and other professional aspects of childhood informed academic research on writing for children and young people. Much can be learned about the development of our field by spending time in the Storr archives – and many of the others held by Seven Stories.