Sam Lane reports from London on Michael Morpurgo’s red suit, bumbling fingers, and steadfast storytelling mission
The War Horse app is beautifully designed for use by children and adults alike.
The phenomenon that is War Horse has been brought into the 21st Century as the story-based War Horse iPad App launches for the princely sum of £9.99 ($13.99 in the US iTunes Store).
To celebrate this news, author Michael Morpurgo was brought into the Regent Street Apple Shop in London on Saturday, November 24 to demonstrate and read from the iPad version of the book as well as answer a few questions about his life and work.
Low-tech Michael Morpurgo on a high-tech marquee at the Apple Store in London (Sam Lane Photo)
Morpurgo was late to arrive, but he eventually showed up, dressed in his crumpled and unfashionable burgundy suit, looking a little like a disheveled schoolteacher.
I remembered that I was not particularly keen about the book and I questioned what I was actually doing there. Then he started to talk…
Michael Morpurgo always seems to have on a red jacket. For the iPad launch, he was dressed in red from head to toe. (Sam Lane photo)
He’s a humble guy. He’s entertaining and captivating. The evening was a great mix of humor and story-telling. He told of his passion for books inherited from his mother, who read her favorite books to him. He told of his years as a primary school teacher — which made me wonder if he had that suit all these years.
He spoke about his technophobia and even revealed that he still writes in pen and that his wife types for him. And he made no secret of his fears when he confessed that he could not even open the War Horse app! He inviting a boy from the audience up to the stage to do it, and of course it was open in seconds!
Michael Morpurgo is not afraid to belittle himself in public, in spite of his success as the author of over 100 books.
Morpurgo claimed to be unable to even open the iPad app for War Horse. But a young boy in the audience was recruited to assist. (Sam Lane photo)
The War Horse phenomenon escalated when Steven Spielberg made the film. Up until then, the book had sold about 1000 copies a year and was translated into just two languages. After the success of the stage show and then “the call” from Steven Spielberg, global success meant that the book is now translated into over 40 languages.
In the United Kingdom in January 2012, War Horse was the bestselling book across both adult and children’s books markets, thirty years after it was first published.
I was interested to hear that Morpurgo never intended for the book to be a children’s book. It was inspired by a conversation he had in his Devonshire village with a First World War veteran in the 1970s. His name was Will. Will had been in the Yeomanry and revealed in some candid conversations that he spoke to his horse about his fears and “the horse listened”.
The new War Horse iPad app contains the entire book, beautifully illustrated for children. You can also listen to author Michael Morpurgo read the book. And the book is linked to history pages that tell the story of World War I.
There were moments when I felt real emotion in his account of Will’s story, how he listened to the old man who as a young soldier went to a war where so few came back — men or horses.
We also had a special guest: a British Army Private dressed from the era. His outfit and working conditions were described by a chap from the Imperial War Museum.
The Imperial War Museum played a role in the app and in the evening at the Apple Store. An expert explained some World War I history and an accurately-attired assistant modeled the type of uniform that British soldiers wore. (Sam Lane photo)
Apparently the iPad app isn’t just the story of Joey; it also timelines the First World War, gives details of the uniforms and the locations and explains military decisions that took place.
Michael Morpurgo is genuinely and openly delighted that the story he wrote touches young and old alike whether it’s the book, the play, the film or the app–just don’t ask him how to use it!
Sam Lane is a freelance photographer, blogger and marketer in London. The daughter of a well-known equine veterinarian, she has been a key asset for War Horse News and the Jurga Report with on-the-ground photography and reporting in London. She reported on the London premiere of the film.