Places to Visit

The Curse of the School Rabbit- and The Tiger Who Came to Tea

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Newark Park is an estate in Gloucestershire managed by the National Trust. The house started life as a Tudor hunting lodge, but was extended and altered by subsequent owners to create the wonderful building which is there today. This summer, it has been the venue for an exhibition (originated by Seven Stories, in partnership with Harper Collins) celebrating last year being the 50th anniversary of ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ by Judith Kerr.

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The Buff Bedroom has been set up with an interactive kitchen for children to explore and use to reenact the story. A benevolent giant tiger sits in one corner, waiting to be cuddled and climbed on- by adults as much as children! Plenty of copies of this lovely story are available for sharing. There is also a trail around the house with cuddly tigers clutching letters in most rooms.

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On the top floor, the Newark exhibition room is dedicated to art work from the book and a film of Judith Kerr talking about ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ and her work. There were high quality facsimiles of Judith Kerr’s original illustrations from the Seven Stories collection on the walls and in a cabinet in the centre of the room. A short film was also playing which included footage of Judith Kerr in her studio. The exhibition is well worth a visit for those who love ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’. Once it leaves Newark Park, the exhibition will visit these locations:

Saturday 7 September – Sunday 3 November 2019 Bateman’s, East Sussex:
Saturday 9 November – Sunday 5 January 2020: Knole, Kent 

2020
Saturday 11 January – Sunday 1 March: Osterley Park, Middlesex
Saturday 7 March – Sunday 29 April: Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan

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‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ was the first book written by Judith Kerr. ‘The Curse of the School Rabbit’ was written by her just before her death in May this year.

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When Miss Bennet’s mother is taken ill, Snowflake, the school rabbit, comes to stay at Tommy’s house. From this point on, everything seems to go wrong and Tommy is sure it is Snowflake’s fault. However, much as Snowflake has caused many problems, the rabbit is also the cause of some unexpected good luck for Tommy and his family.

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Full of warmth and family feeling, ‘The Curse of the School Rabbit’ is a gently humorous story told from the viewpoint of a little boy whose main concern is whether his parents will be able to afford to get him a bike for Christmas. His father - an actor- is ‘resting’ so money is tight and Tommy’s little sister, Angie, who adores Snowflake, seems to Tommy to get away with everything. Judith Kerr has captured Tommy’s voice perfectly as his home is invaded by this annoying rabbit and its ‘curse’- every day incidents are perfectly captured. The illustrations are delightful- black and white pencil sketches offering an old fashioned charm and humour- in fact, I was surprised to find mum had a mobile as the story could easily have been set at an earlier time. ‘The Curse of the School Rabbit’ is a lovely book, perfect for sharing as well as independent reading with a satisfying, happy conclusion.

The Curse of the School Rabbit Judith Kerr

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008351847

Playing Pooh Sticks

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Being a ‘bear of very little brain’ myself, I have always wanted to play Pooh sticks on the very bridge in the Hundred Acre Wood, but have never managed to get there. That changed this week, however, when I set off through the rain, jumping in puddles along the way, to Ashdown Forest.

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Having parked in the ‘Pooh’ car park, we made our way through the woods in search of heffalump and woozles. There was no one else around and we were really able to enjoy the peace and beauty of these woodlands full of birdsong and the gentle patter of the rain.

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On the way, we passed what might very well have been the start of Eeyore’s house and spent time looking up, trying to spot Owl’s house high in the trees. On down the path, through more trees and round a corner…and there it was.

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Silly as it sounds, I can’t tell you how happy it made me to play Pooh sticks on this bridge in the place where Christopher Robin played the game with his father who then made it part of one of the stories in ‘The House at Pooh Corner’.

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It’s been quite a difficult time recently so it was such a treat to enjoy this place and remember the stories I have always enjoyed so much. Having played ( and won) several games, we could hear voices and soon enough, other excited people (many much younger than us!) started to arrive at the bridge. Grateful to have had time alone here, we left them to their fun and retraced our steps to the car park.

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From Pooh’s car park, we went to Piglet’s and pushed our way through the wet bracken and bushes up the path to find the Enchanted Place where there is a memorial stone dedicated to both A A Milne and E H Shepard for capturing ‘the magic’ of Ashdown Forest.

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It’s a beautiful place and there are many places which are evocative of these much-loved stories and their illustrations. I will visit again…

‘We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.

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Shakespeare's Telling Tales: A M Howell

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My visit to Shakespeare’s Telling Tales this weekend continued with A M Howell’s event. She was talking about her wonderful book, ‘The Garden of Lost Secrets’ and how she came to write it. This is a brilliant story, set in 1916, when Clara is sent to stay with her aunt and uncle. Taking a huge secret with her, she finds herself living in the Gardener’s Cottage on a country estate. Here she finds there are many other secrets, including a thief who is stealing the exotic fruits from the estate hothouses. Beautifully atmospheric and full of charm, it is an excellent read and I was keen to find out more about the author.

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Ann-Marie told us about the diaries she wrote as a child and even read us a section from one! Talking about where stories come from, she told us that she gets lots of ideas from places she visits and Ickworth House in Suffolk gave her the idea for her story. Its walled gardens and the gardener’s cottage started her imagination working overtime and when she researched the history of the estate, she heard that a gardener’s notebook had been found which was about 100 years old. When she met with the head gardener, it turned out that the contents were not all that exciting, but it added to the mix of thoughts and ideas which became the book.

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Ann-Marie then encouraged the audience to create their own settings- and there were so many ideas! Lots of weird and wonderful locations were suggested for stories which hopefully will be written by the lively minds that created them. It was a great session and a satisfying conclusion to this year’s visit to Shakespeare’s Telling Tales.

The Garden of Lost Secrets A M Howell

Usborne ISBN: 978-1474959551