This and its companion volume Write your own Shakespearean Tale are the first of a series of children’s books commissioned by British Library Publishing. The concept is to encourage children to write their own adventure stories using inspiration from the canon, and Patterson has assembled a treasure trove of material from classics by Lewis Carroll, Michael Morpurgo, Jules Verne, E. Nesbit, J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, Kipling, C.S. Lewis, Edward Lear, J.M. Barrie, Defoe, Arthur Ransome, R.L. Stevenson, Kenneth Graham and Frank L. Baum.
The writing prompts are well thought-out and would be useful for tutors, educators, or volunteers working with creative writing groups of any age. It seems more likely that the book would be used in an educational setting than by individual children, which raises issues about who the layout and design is aimed at. Presenting information on faux ‘post-its’ seemingly sellotaped onto the page, using various fonts and colours, and laid out at different angles, is distracting and detracts hugely from the content. This is a shame because the actual content is excellent.
The book uses original illustrations from the British Library holdings, and while beautiful in their own right, they are not necessarily used to their best advantage here, laid out as they are in ‘scrapbooking’ style. At last year’s CBI conference Mairi Kidd of Barrington Stoke gave a fascinating talk about the problem of readability and legibility in children’s book design, and My Book of Stories is a good case in point.