Our very first event at Mainstreet back in 2008 was with the wonderful Michael Morpurgo, so it is with very great pleasure that we welcome him back during the week of our 10th birthday on 20th June 2018.

Firmly established as a national treasure, Michael will be talking about his two most recent books, Flamingo Boy and In the Mouth of the Wolf. Both have a wartime setting, and both are deeply personal, inspired by Michael’s own family. In the Mouth of the Wolf is a tale of espionage, loss and bravery inspired by the true story of Michael’s uncles; while Flamingo Boy tells of an autistic boy living in the Camargue, when war threatens to destroy everything he loves, he finds friendship and kindness, even among enemy soldiers.

As part of our 10th birthday celebrations we have appointed Michael as Mainstreet Makar, and look forward to presenting him with his Makar ‘rosette’ at this event on the 20th June.


In the Mouth of the Wolf
For the first time, Michael turns to the true story of his two uncles in the Second World War. Francis and Pieter are brothers. As shadow of one war lingers, and the rumbles of another approach, the brothers argue. Francis is a fierce pacifist, while Pieter signs up to fight. What happens next will change the course of Francis’s life forever . . . and throw him into the mouth of the wolf. In the Mouth of the Wolf begins at Francis’s 90th birthday as he reflects on his eventful life, and the part he played in the Second World War.  Michael Morpurgo’s wonderful storytelling and Barroux’s stunning artwork combine to tell the true story of Michael’s uncles against the epic backdrop of World War Two.

Flamingo Boy
Speaking of the inspiration for Flamingo Boy, Michael Mopurgo said: “I have a grandson who is autistic. I had never realised until he became part of our family what this really meant, or what it was. I had not thought of writing a book about him, partly because the subject had been so well written about before and partly because my understanding of autism was too shallow. I simply didn’t have the confidence to get started on a story. But then a visit to the Camargue in the South of France, a wild and wonderful national park where pink flamingos fly, gave me the story of an autistic boy growing up in a farmhouse amongst these creatures. I decided to set the story during the Second World War when France was an occupied country. Where children and people who were different were under threat whether they were gypsies or Jews or people who did not seem to be like other people, autistic children amongst them. It’s the story of love and friendship, of how people from different culture and backgrounds can come together, especially when they are under threat.”


Michael Morpurgo, began writing stories in the early ’70’s, in response to the children in his class at the primary school where he taught in Kent. One of the UK’s best-loved authors and storytellers, Michael was appointed Children’s Laureate in 2003, a post he helped to set up with Ted Hughes in 1999. He was awarded an OBE in 2007 and a Knighthood in the New Year’s Honours in 2018 for services to literature and charity. He has written over 130 books, including The Butterfly Lion, Kensuke’s Kingdom, Why the Whales Came, The Mozart Question, Shadow, and War Horse, which was adapted for a hugely successful stage production by the National Theatre and then, in 2011, for a film directed by Steven Spielberg. His book, Private Peaceful was adapted for the stage by Simon Reade and a film, directed by Pat O’Connor. He has won numerous awards including those voted for by children themselves, the Blue Peter Book Award and the Children’s Book Award. His latest books to be published in Spring 2018 are both set during the second World War: Flamingo Boy, a novel set in the Camargue region of France, and In the Mouth of the Wolf, the true story of the lives of Michael Morpurgo’s uncles.
A son and grandson of actors, Michael has acting in his blood and enjoys collaborating and performing live adaptations of his books at festivals, concerts and theatres.

Michael’s books have been translated into many languages including Chinese, Bulgarian and Hungarian, Hebrew and Japanese. He travels all over the UK and abroad talking to people of all ages at literary festivals, telling his stories and encouraging them to tell theirs.

With his wife Clare, he set up the charity Farms for City Children, which offers children and teachers from inner-city primary schools the chance to live and work in the countryside for a week on one of the charity’s three farms in Devon, Gloucestershire and Wales. Over 100,000 children have visited the three farms run by the charity since it began in 1976. Teachers frequently comment that a child can learn more in a week on the farm than a year in the classroom. HRH The Princess Royal is Patron of the charity. The couple were awarded joint MBE’s for their work in education.

Many of you will be familiar with Emma Healey’s debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2014. We are delighted to welcome her to Mainstreet on Tues 5th June to talk about her new book, Whistle in the Dark.

Jen’s 15-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and the police draw a blank. The once-happy, loving family return to London, where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely: refusing to go to school, and sleeping with the light on.

With her daughter increasingly becoming a stranger, Jen is sure the answer lies in those four missing days. But will Lana ever reveal what happened?

‘Utterly compelling and insightful, I was drawn into this family in crisis from the first chapter of this unflinchingly honest and beautifully written novel’ – ROSAMUND LUPTON

Portrait © Emily Grey


Regulars at Mainstreet will know that we were a touch evangelical about Maggie O’Farrell’s extraordinary memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am which came out in hardback last year. We are therefore delighted to announce that Maggie, our very own Mainstreet Makar, will be joining us on Thurs 31st May to celebrate publication of the paperback edition.

I Am, I Am, I Am is a memoir with a difference – the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman’s life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, intelligent, it’s a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.

You don’t need to take our word for it…

“Leaves the reader feeling breathless, grateful and fully alive. Maggie O’Farrell is a miracle in every sense. I will never forget this book.” – ANN PATCHETT

“She is a breathtakingly good writer, and brings all her elegance and poise as a novelist to the story of her own life.” – GUARDIAN

Portrait © Murdo MacLeod


–A searing, ‘hold your breath’ brilliant memoir of how Tara Westover, despite never attending school, decided, aged 16, to educate herself, ending up with a PHD from Cambridge. This, against the background of her extreme ‘End of Days’ Mormon upbringing in Idaho.
A short review cannot do justice to this remarkable and compassionate story of family, love and learning, you must read it for yourself.
Reviewed by Rosamund

Victor Forde is instantly engaging. Alone in a new area of town he finds himself drinking each night at his local bar. Approached by a man who seems to know him, his past starts to unfold in stories told between them. With masterful writing Roddy Doyle elicits easy sympathy for Victor, his irritants become ours and his sorrows too, which leads us to an uncomfortable and stunning denouement.
Reviewed by Vivian

With liberal use of teen language(!) and a rucksack full of essentials (belVitas, Dundee cake) the eponymous hero of Sal removes her younger sister from the danger lurking in their family home and heads for the woods. Her voice is distinct, her story tragic and you will root for her from the first page. An exceptional debut novel from Mick Kitson.
Reviewed by Vivian

Opening with the brutal murder of two children in her care Lullaby continues as an examination of how a life lived on the margins of society contrives to turn Louise, seemingly the prefect nanny, into the stuff of nightmares. Not a comfortable read but an excellent portrait of the gradual disintegration of a mind.
Reviewed by Vivian

A searing memoir of the author’s seventeen brushes with death, from a childhood illness she wasn’t expected to survive, to a terrifying encounter with a stranger on a remote hillside.

This is a book that makes you see the world afresh, grateful for every moment. Using all her skills as a novelist, O’Farrell moves cleverly around her life, with a sharp, often painful, clarity.

A searing memoir of the author’s seventeen brushes with death, from a childhood illness she wasn’t expected to survive, to a terrifying encounter with a stranger on a remote hillside.
This is a book that makes you see the world afresh, grateful for every moment. Using all her skills as a novelist, O’Farrell moves cleverly around her life, with a sharp, often painful, clarity.

Hardinge’s previous novel, The Lie Tree (winner of the Costa Book Prize) was read by adults and teens alike. The same should apply to this excellent, atmospheric and utterly gripping story. Living a perilous existence at the beginning of the English Civil War, Makepeace is a strong young woman forced to live with dark secrets from an early age. A perfect wintery read.