What I get up to when not writing

I recently spent a couple of free mornings stewarding at the Oxford Story Museum – which gave me the pleasing feeling of Doing Something Useful while actually thoroughly enjoying myself.  Win/win all round, eh.

Story Museum

So the least I can do after this orgy of self-indulgence is to SHARE the glow of it all, beginning with…

Draw Me a Story. A beautifully-paced, thoughtful exhibition in which works by six of the best children’s illustrators around are hung alongside their preparatory drawings, doodles and sketchbooks, showing all the steps from the spark of an idea to the completed picture book. Here I discovered the delightful Fred from Yasmeen Ismail’s Time for Bed, Fred!  Fred

   Which leads me seamlessly on to, er….

Time for Bed. This is sheer heaven. Visitors (of all ages and sizes) are encouraged to wrap themselves in dressing gowns and enter the room, to be greeted by the sight of a truly gigantic, patchwork-quilt-covered bed whose pillows are the size of duvets. The yearning to throw yourself on to this is overwhelming (shoes off first, of course, what were you thinking?).  But try to resist just long enough to peep into the little room in the corner, where lockers contain classic picture books like Anthony Browne’s Gorilla and Elfrida Vipont & Raymond Briggs’s The Elephant and the Bad Baby (two personal favourites), complete with cuddly gorilla and soft blue elephant, and take one to curl up with on the giant bed.

Dressing gowns    No, you’re not too old, don’t be ridiculous. Last week a school party of Year 8s went wild, (though interestingly the tiny lullaby room proved even more popular than the giant bed – clearly all that a hyperactive 13 year-old needs is a snooze). And the week before a group of students fell on the picture books before lying full-length on the coverlet, elbows propped, devouring Can’t You Sleep Little Bear (Martin Waddell) and Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak).

You’ll still find some old favourites from the recent 26 Characters exhibition – Treasure Island, Lord of the Rings, a huge dark wardrobe full of fur coats…. and the incomparable Changing Room with the Astonishing Announcing Throne.

And there’s more to come. If, after the cosiness of Time for Bed you’re hankering after something more exciting, the Extreme Reading room is about to open, which promises just that.

I can’t wait.


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