HarperCollins Children’s Books (HCCB) and Farshore have unveiled a year-long celebratory publishing plan marking the 80th birthday of author Michael Morpurgo with almost 50 titles scheduled and new author branding designed by his granddaughter Alice, illustrations by Dapo Adeola and an introduction from Benedict Cumberbatch.
To celebrate the landmark birthday in October of 2023, HCCB and Farshore have planned a programme of new and “revitalised” publishing for this year and beyond.
Beginning in August, the two lists have collaborated on beautiful new paperback editions of his backlist titles, with 47 books scheduled between August 2023 and March 2025, “all in a new and cohesive cover livery, featuring a cast of talented illustrators”, the publisher said. “These gorgeous new designs also unveil new author branding, designed by Michael’s granddaughter and award-winning designer Alice Morpurgo, who has grown-up with the books.” The refreshed list launches in August with War Horse, Private Peaceful, The Butterfly Lion, Kensuke’s Kingdom, Shadow and Why the Whales Came, with six more titles following in September, and then at regular intervals.
The autumn will see a new anthology of Shakespearean retellings. “In September, HCCB will publish Michael’s Tales from Shakespeare – a landmark illustrated collection of retellings that presents 10 of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays in Michael’s inimitable and accessible style, introduced by Benedict Cumberbatch and enlivened by full-colour illustrations from a who’s-who of contemporary children’s book artists, including Dapo Adeola – whom Michael discovered last year had visited Farms for City Children [a charity founded by Morpurgo] as a boy with his school,” HarperCollins said. “Other contributors include Michael Foreman, Sam Usher, Joelle Avelino and Tom Clohosy Cole… [it is] a major new publication.”
Throughout the year there will be a major marketing and publicity campaign, incorporating high-profile partnerships, educational initiatives and a series of large-scale events and appearances by Morpurgo, including the War Horse 40th Anniversary concert at festivals including York Festival of Ideas and Jersey Book Festival.
There will also be the release of a film of one of the author’s most popular books, Kensuke’s Kingdom, which has been selected for competition at the 2023 Annecy Film Festival in France.
Morpurgo said: “Eighty is fine. I’ve had a life full of Clare, and family and friends. I live in a pastoral paradise, have my health, mostly, and my memories, mostly. I am still writing almost every day and enjoying it, singing in the shower and enjoying it, going for my walks on the wild side in all weathers and enjoying them, still seeing our Farms for City Children tramping off in their wellies to feed the sheep, and hearing their laughter in the fields. I love a good wine and an asparagus risotto, and rhubarb crumble. Our blackbird is with us all year round, goldfinches too. Our swallows still come in the spring. I love Mozart and the Proclaimers as much as ever.”
He added: “I’ve told and written hundreds of stories and poems, met many thousands of readers all over the world. So 80 is fine. Few regrets, many joys. I’ve been a lucky old so and so.”
Cally Poplak, executive publisher of HCCB and Farshore, has worked with the author for almost 30 years. “Bringing together novels from both lists under the now-combined banner of HarperCollins marks the first time that the majority of Michael’s beloved books will be available in the same stunning look,” she said. “I have had the joy of working with Michael since 1995 – seeing the storyteller entrance an audience of all ages, the writer champion the work of illustrators new and established, the campaigner shine a spotlight on the importance of children experiencing nature and, of course, reading for pleasure – and so it is a very special moment to be able to celebrate Michael’s birthday with a brilliant new book, and more to come, and a new brand identity across his whole HarperCollins portfolio.”