Elizabeth Morley is an author-illustrator of fiction for children aged seven to eleven. Her stories are set in a parallel world populated by hedgehogs which nevertheless closely resembles our own. They are fast-paced, witty, full of twists and turns, and packed with colour illustrations on nearly every page.
Elizabeth wrote and illustrated her first hedgehog story when she was aged eleven herself - inspired by the family of hedgehogs who had taken up residence in her garden. Many years later, she returned to the theme to entertain a friend - a grown-up who remained young at heart.
Thus Snipper was born - secret agent and hedgehog hero of Let Sleeping Hedgehogs Spy and of Hedgehogs from Outer Space (as well as of others yet to come). Elizabeth's first published book, however, was Where Hedgehogs Dare, which features Snipper's great-grandmother, Snippette, when still a youthful and very daring hedgehog. Elizabeth's latest book, The Smugglers of Hog's Head Bay, takes the reader back further still, to the 1770s - an age of sail, smuggling and revolution. Set on the 'Isle of Needles' (based on the Isle of Wight), The Smugglers of Hog's Head Bay features another of Snipper's ancestors, Hoglinda, as she finds herself drawn into her cousin's murky world.
While these stories were written for children, both parents and teachers may be pleased to note that Snipper, Snippette and Hoglinda are also popular with grown-up readers!
Visit Vimeo to watch Elizabeth's four book trailers - illustrated excerpts from her books, narrated by the author herself, and set to her own music: https://vimeo.com/elizabethmorley
All of Elizabeth's books finish with a short postscript explaining the real-life facts behind the story; for, while her purpose is first and foremost to entertain, much of her inspiration comes from the fascinating world (and universe) around us. The hedgehogs are very much like us (with a few added extras - notably the ability to hibernate). The locations are inspired by real places, most of which Elizabeth has visited (such as France, Germany, Iceland and the Isle of Wight) but a few of which she has not (a video tour by astronaut Suni Williams was sadly the closest she got to the International Space Station!).
The plots also take in real history, such as the planned invasion of Great Britain in World War II or smuggling in the 1770s; real science and technology, from thermite's ability to burn under water to the role of robots in space; and real natural phenomena, like avalanches and crevasses. There is also an explanation of the scientific theories behind the science fiction in her third book - as well as information on European involvement in space exploration and how to become an astronaut!
Elizabeth is very happy to take suggestions from schools on the format of a visit - whether a talk or a workshop or a combination of the two. On previous school visits, a single session has lasted about an hour in total, divided into four short sections:-
1) a reading from one of her books.
2) a short talk:
Option A - a talk about the real-life facts behind the chosen book e.g. for Where Hedgehogs Dare, World War II and the threatened invasion of Great Britain / the French Resistance / the Channel Islands' experience of occupation; for Let Sleeping Hedgehogs Spy, geographical features of the Alps / Iceland / the Netherlands and Venice (avalanches and crevasses / turf houses / land reclaimed from the sea and the risk of flooding); Hedgehogs from Outer Space, the International Space Station and space exploration; The Smugglers of Hog's Head Bay, smuggling / sailing and navigation in the 1770s.
Option B - a talk ranging across all four books where the author explains how she gets her ideas - from her own experiences, observations and travels, plus a fair amount of research (scientific, historical, geographical etc.).
Elizabeth's talks are accompanied by a selection of slides showing a few of her illustrations, together with (where relevant) the photographs which the illustrations were based on.
3) a discussion about the ingredients for a good adventure story;
4) a mini-workshop where the children come up with ideas of their own; here it usually best for the children to divide into smaller groups with pen and paper to jot down their ideas, which they can use later to write out a story back home.
The children are also encouraged to ask questions throughout the visit.
Elizabeth will talk to either big or small groups, according to the school's preference. However, for less confident children, she recommends smaller groups to put them at their ease and encourage them to ask questions.
Isle of Wight Schools
Elizabeth is a frequent and life-long visitor to the Isle of Wight, which provided the inspiration for her fourth book The Smugglers of Hog's Head Bay. She would be delighted to talk to island schools about the real-life places and the historical events which lie behind her book.
Elizabeth divides her time between Hertfordshire, London and the Isle of Wight but is willing to travel to most places in the UK. A standard session costs £150 plus travel.