Morpurgo, C. & M. (2012) Where My Wellies Take Me Templar Books ISBN 978 1 8487 544 2
On one level Where My Wellies Take Me is a simple tale of childhood. But it also succeeds on so many other levels, for here is a ‘childrens’ book for everyone.
It’s both carries a powerful sense of place and is redolent with memories of a country childhood. It’s also about the magic of the countryside, and how we can unlock that magic through our senses and imagination, through walking, and through being open to the physical world around us.
Drawing on their childhood memories and their love of poetry, author Michael Morpurgo (who wrote the story) and wife Clare (who chose the poems) have produced a unique book which will undoubtedly prove to be a cherished bestseller. Where My Wellies Take Me is both a richly illustrated story, a poetry anthology and a feat in paper engineering. There are flaps, fold-out maps, overset pages, collages, and the story itself written in script as if the narrator, Pippa, is compiling her very own journal.
The premise is simple: Pippa is going on a walk in the countryside, her head full of her favourite poems. She describes and draws the animals, birds and scenery around her, and transcribes the poetry of Blake, Hughes, Lawrence, Clare and many others, along the way.
The book, a beautiful production from Templar Books, is brought to life by the marvellous artworks created by Olivia Lomenech Gill.
Michael Morpurgo says that the story was based on Clare’s walks and explorations of Iddesleigh village, the characters she met there and the wildlife that she found.
“Where My Wellies Take Me is really Clare’s story. As a girl Clare would come down to Iddesleigh for her long summer holidays and stay with friends at the Duke of York pub in the village. She would spend her days wandering the lanes and fields of the remote Devon countryside and riding her favourite horse Captain. It was really Clare’s love of this remote and magical place which led Clare and I back to Devon in the 70s and to set up the charity Farms for City Children. It has been a place that has been an inspiration for many of my stories including War Horse, Farm Boy and Private Peaceful.”
The book is a fabulous, intimate celebration of nature and a longing for the freedom that children once had, the friendships they were allowed to form but also there’s an underlying sadness that these ‘freedoms’ have been slowly eroded. So much of childhood seems now to be constrained by nameless fears, and is fenced-in, over-managed and restricted.
Though published as a child’s book Where My Wellies Take Me will appeal as much if not more to adults, because if ever a book could capture your inner child this might be it.
This book is nostalgic in every sense and is about the experience of growing up and how our surroundings affect it. There’s mystery too, and menace and magic, just as there is in many a childhood.
All the profits are being donated to the Morpurgo’s charity, Farms for City Children.
And finally, a fascinating insight into the mind of the illustrator, in this interview about the book: