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Review: Seven Stories

20/05/2011 21:42 | Updated 22 May 2015
Review: Seven StoriesSeven Stories

Oh that I lived in Newcastle upon Tyne.

For if I did I would spend every day of my life – and my daughters would spend theirs too – at the Seven Stories Building in the city's Lime Street.

Tucked away down a non-descript road on the outskirts of town is one of the true jewels in the crown of What-To-Do-In-The-Holidays-With-The-Kids.

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Seven Stories (guess what – a seven story building) is a celebration of all that is amazingly fabulous about children's books, both their place in our childhood and in our children's.

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The centre (it's far too alive to call it in any way a museum) opened in 2005 to showcase a national collection of manuscripts and illustrations of some of the UK's finest authors and illustrators for children.

"Plur-leese can we go to Seven Stories this Easter," my girls chant in unison the moment they kick off their school schools and embrace the school holidays.

And I have to say I am sorely tempted to return for a fourth time to this Aladdin's Cave of literacy treasures that never bore and always make the spirits soar.

"Britain has a wonderful heritage of writing and illustration for children – from Alice in Wonderland to The Gruffalo, British children's books are among the best known and most widely read in the world," says Kate Edwards, from Seven Stories.

"Our aim at Seven Stories is to create a national archive of modern and contemporary children's literature, which is not generally represented in the collections of other major institutions like the British Library. Our focus is not just the finished work, but all that goes into the making of a book – roughs, drafts, dummy books, correspondence and other papers".

Today, the Seven Stories collection includes original artwork and manuscripts by around 80 authors and illustrators, including Philip Pullman, Robert Westall, Edward Ardizzone and Judith Kerr, and about 30,000 books.

And dear reader, it never fails to disappoint. Over the years my children and I have revisited Judith Kerr's The Tiger who Came to Tea (walking through a life-size recreation of the pages of the book), pored over original drawings by Quentin Blake as he sought to bring to visual reality a myriad of Roald Dahl characters, listened to countless re-telling of Paddington Bear stories and tried our hand on more than one occasion at illustrating our own story books based on Benedict Blathwayt's Little Red Train series.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Every time your visit the seven floors of the building something new catches your eye, even if you think you have exhausted every last corner. A dressing up floor complete with a library of well-loved, well-thumbed books is a top favourite stop with my girls, as is the craft stop where they can design their own books, draw their own pictures and model characters with as much glue and sticky paper mess they can handle. The café on the basement floor is welcoming and reasonably priced with decent food and not a chip in sight. And it's one of those rare things – an activity which can capture the attention of boys and girls, young ones and up to teenagers.

This piece cannot do the whole Seven Stories experience justice, so log in here and here at Parentdish we double dare you not to be drawn in to its magic.

In the meantime, I'm off to book three return train tickets to Newcastle – we're going again.

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