Some people say that there are only seven types of story in all the world. Visitors to Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle upon Tyne are being invited to discover if this can really be true in an exciting new exhibition due to open this Easter.
Where Stories Come From, which opens on Saturday 4 April, explores the idea that every story fits into one of seven basic story plots. Visitors of all ages will be taken on a journey through these plots, each brought to life with unique items from Seven Stories’ superb collection including the typewriter used by Enid Blyton to create her hugely popular adventures, original illustrations from The Queen’s Knickers by Nicholas Allan as well as a notebook containing the first-ever draft of The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.
As Gillian Rennie, Senior Curator at Seven Stories explains: “Seven Stories was given its name for two reasons: the building is spread across seven floors and the theory that there are only seven types of stories in the world. Although there are definitely thousands of ways to tell these seven stories the idea that all stories fall into one of these seven categories never fails to cause debate.
“We’re really excited to introduce this idea to visitors and welcome children, young people and their families this Easter in what is the first new exhibition of Seven Stories’ fifteenth birthday year.”
The seven plots are: Quest; Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches; Voyage and Return; Tragedy; Rebirth and Comedy.
The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton are classic Quest stories which invite readers to join Anne, Dick, George, Julian and Timmy the dog as they try to solve an exciting new mystery. Fans of Enid Blyton will get the chance to see the portable typewriter that she wrote all of her books on as well as original handwritten documents and illustrations for Five Have Plenty of Fun, first published in 1955.
Overcoming the Monster explores the idea that everyone feels scared sometimes and that reading monster stories can help people overcome their fears, whatever they are. Bestselling picture book The Gruffalo encourages readers to head into the deep dark wood, and discover what happens when the quick-thinking mouse comes face to face with an owl, a snake and a hungry Gruffalo. Lovers of this modern classic will be able to see the very first draft of the story written by Julia Donaldson as well as the first sketches ever made of the Gruffalo by Axel Scheffler.
Cinderella, probably the best-known fairy tale in the world, is a classic Rags to Riches story and is believed to be over a thousand years old. Visitors will be able to see a hand-coloured fold-out book called Cinderella and the Little Glass Slipper which dates back to c.1860 alongside handwritten drafts of John Agard’s modern twist Pumpkin Biker Cinderella. There’s also the chance to see original artwork by Tony Ross for Don’t Cook Cinderella by Francesca Simon.
Voyage and Return stories involve characters journeying to strange lands where they overcome threats or learn important lessons before returning home and sharing their adventures with friends and family. Jethro Byrde, Fairy Child by Bob Graham features Annabelle whose dad says that she’ll never find fairies in cement and weeds. But Annabelle does, and discovers a whole new world without ever leaving home. Visitors will be able to see original artwork from this magical book and will be invited to jump aboard, take the wheel and decide where their voyage will take them.
Tragedy examines what it’s like to feel regret, grief and loss. Sad things happen to everyone but stories about tragedy can help readers to realise that they’re not alone. Goodbye Mog written and illustrated by Judith Kerr (Harper Collins Children’s Books) is a story about death and remembering, both sad and comforting, that comes from the experience of losing a beloved pet or family member. Featuring a selection of original illustrations from Goodbye Mog, Where Stories Come From asks visitors what they do to feel better when they’re sad. Maybe a good story will do just the trick!
In a Rebirth story the main character often behaves badly for a while as they adjust to change, but, by the end, they discover their true selves. Rebirth stories can help people find their way through their own periods of change. Visitors will be able to see original storyboards for Little Monster Did It! by Helen Cooper a story that explores the experiences of family life being turned upside down by the arrival of a new baby. The team at Seven Stories also worked with North East Young Dads and Lads, a charity that supports young dads under 25, to explore Little Monster Did It! and come up with the perfect toolkit for looking after a new baby.
Finally, Comedy explores the stories and things that make us laugh, the different things that people find funny and the joy of sharing a funny story with a friend. Nicholas Allan’s humorous picture book The Queen’s Knickers brings together one of the most important items in anybody’s wardrobe and one of the most famous and revered women in the world. Original illustrations and copies of the book will be on display alongside labels written by students from Diamond Hall Junior Academy in Sunderland about their favourite bits of the book including Joshua, aged 9, who said “this picture makes me laugh because the Queen’s bum is attached to a parachute!” Visitors will also be challenged to try and keep a straight face as they watch videos of pupils from Diamond Hall Junior Academy doing their very best to make them laugh.
Gill Rennie added: “It is important for us to work with members of the local community to help co-curate our exhibitions. Where Stories Come From has provided the perfect opportunity to work with North East Dads and Lads as well as pupils from Diamond Hall Junior Academy to create an exhibition that allows young people’s voices to be heard.”
Throughout April, to coincide with the opening of Where Stories Come From, families will be able to take part in a The Gruffalo Mini Story Workshop, a chance to play, sing and make a craft activity with little brown mouse in a fun, interactive telling of this popular tale. Visitors will also be able to join one of Seven Stories amazing Storycatchers as they introduce the seven story plots and share highlights from the exhibition in Where Stories Come From – Mini Exhibition Tours.
Where Stories Come From opens at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books on Saturday 4 April 2020. For more information about Where Stories Come From and associated events visit www.sevenstories.org.uk or call 0300 330 1095.
Where Stories Come From has been made possible with funding from Arts Council England, Community Foundation, National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, Catherine Cookson Trust as well as development support from the Vital North Partnership a strategic partnership between Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books and Newcastle University, funded by Arts Council England and Newcastle University.