Editor: Nancy Springer

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Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Michael Morpurgo was born in 1943 in St. Albans, England, a town just north of London. He grew up in a Britain that was recovering from wartime destruction and shortages. He has drawn on this experience several times for book backgrounds, such as the scarred urban scenery in his Mr. Nobody's Eyes. At age seven he was sent away to boarding school. He sang in the choir at King's School at Canterbury, which traces its founding back to around 600 A.D. As a boy he was not an enthusiastic reader, he says, except for the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. He was more interested in playing rugby, and in fact had a reputation for being slightly stupid.

After attending King's College, London, Morpurgo became a teacher in a primary school. He taught school children for a number of years, and his turn toward writing came when a story he was reading to them failed to hold their attention. "I can do better," he thought. The next day he read them a story he had made up for his own children; it fascinated the students. He apparently had quite a few stories already made up in his mind because after this scene was repeated many times, he wrote them down at the urging of a publisher and they became his first published book.

After ten years of teaching, Morpurgo left the profession but still wanted to be involved with children and their activities. In addition to writing more stories and books for young people, he and his wife founded Farms for City Kids, a program which brings city children to his farm in Devon for a week. While there, they take care of farm animals, help plant crops, and have other experiences unique to living in the country. The program has grown, with other farms now in Wales, Gloucestershire, and Vermont, but Morpurgo has stayed personally involved. He has used ideas drawn from watching the children interact with each other, and with the farm animals, in some of his books.

Michael Morpurgo has had over sixty books published in Britain. They encompass a wide range of different types, from picture books to ghost stories and historical novels. Many of his books have been winners of or short-listed for awards, and he himself was instrumental in setting up the Children's Laureate, a celebration of writers and illustrators of children's books. Only some of his books have been published in the United States, starting in the mid-1980s. His other interests include music and mountains and, he says, "daydreaming."