Bubbles of authors and illustrators

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Bubbles of authors and illustrators who have collaborated can lead to expanded reading repertoires as Caroline Bradley explains in this blog.

A Michael Morpurgo box set is a staple on most primary school library shelves and many children devour the collection and wonder where to go next. In a month where we have celebrated the works of this very popular writer, let us also celebrate where his books can lead us if we look at the countless collaborations he has produced with a wide range of illustrators and authors. There are many authors likely to appeal to Morpurgo fans – Gill Lewis, Lauren St John, Piers Torday and Jane Kerr to name a few but to breach the genre wall, another way to extend children’s reading repertoires is to use each Morpurgo collaboration as a springboard to a chain of illustrators and authors that will introduce the reader to a wide range of writing styles and formats.

Morpugo’s latest title Owl or Pussycat is illustrated by the wonderfully versatile Polly Dunbar. This book presents an endearing tale from Michael’s childhood experience of performing The Owl and the Pussycat for his school Christmas play. Michael, aged 7, was fortunate to have been read Edward Lear’s lyrical poem repeatedly by his mother and unsurprisingly bagged the role of Owl alongside the girl of his dreams at the time, who played the Pussycat. After forgetting the lines to his solo, his beau stepped in to save his pride and the play was a triumph.

Michael is a great admirer of Polly’s illustrations and admits, with amusement, that he is jealous of her working with other authors. Polly has an excellent section on her website detailing her other collaborations. But for us as the reader this multi-collaborative role of many authors and illustrators provides us with a perpetual trail of new books to read.

Challenge children to find the longest chain. Looping round is allowed but they must always find an ongoing link in the chain. 

The definition of the word ‘bubble’ has changed somewhat since March 2020. A support bubble is a happy place, a place to feel comfort, a place to feel safe. The world of children’s literature is a collection of interconnecting bubbles linking authors to illustrators, authors to other authors and illustrators to even more authors. The author illustrator opens even more doors as they collaborate with other writers and artists. Make going out of your comfort zone, comfortable.

Create your bubble and relish the embrace of every author and illustrator within. While children are at home they could create bubbles that could become a wish list of books to seek out (from school or their local library) and read.

In school enormous fun could be had with classroom book corners or, better still, the school library. The beauty of creating a bubble together is the natural diversity that will emerge from author gender, culture and style to reading level and range of format. Further challenges could be set such as can you find a graphic novel to go in your bubble, is there any poetry in your bubble?

Having travelled this reading journey with a Morpurgo title at the starting trap, try some of these thoroughbreds and you will travel far and wide across the literacy landscape on a never ending reading road into a sunset of satisfaction.

Chris Riddell, Tony Ross, Quentin Blake 

Levi Pinfold, James Mayhew, Chris Mould 

Jackie Morris, Sarah McIntyre, Jane Ray

Children could create their own reading lists in this way. Another method is to use a bubble map.

Place an illustrator in the centre bubble

How many authors you can bubble around them?

Giving children ownership and agency over their reading journeys is important and so is guiding them towards the plethora of quality authors and illustrators that surround them.