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Once Upon a Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children at the Imperial War Museum in London
The Machine Gunners is a story about Chas McGill and his friends who, during the Second World War, collect 'war souvenirs', bits from damaged planes and bombs.

LONDON.- Once Upon A Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children delves into the pages of well-loved books, bringing stories of war dramatically to life. This new family-friendly exhibition at Imperial War Museum London takes a fresh and engaging look at five of the best-loved books written for children about conflict - War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall and Little Soldier by Bernard Ashley.

Through stunning life-size sets, intricate scale models and interactive exhibits, families are invited to enter the imaginary worlds of these five classic war stories. From the bleak landscape of no man's land in War Horse to the imposing tower blocks of London's gang warfare in Little Soldier, Once Upon A Wartime will take visitors on a journey through conflicts from the First World War to the present day.

Pull up a chair in Hepzibah's kitchen as the evacuees would have done in Carrie's War, discover the schoolboys’ secret fortress from The Machine Gunners and wander around the cellar school, hidden under the destroyed streets of Warsaw in The Silver Sword. By immersing visitors in the stories, Once Upon A Wartime aims to illuminate the experience of war through a child’s eyes. As well as the exhibition’s five central books, adults and children will fall in love with favourites including Goodnight Mister Tom, Refugee Boy and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

The exhibition explores the themes of loyalty, separation, excitement, survival and identity throughout the books then goes behind the scenes of each lead story, explaining the authors’ inspiration through interesting and sometimes unseen items including manuscripts, early sketches, interviews and photographs. Once Upon A Wartime also offers all-important historical context through expert interpretation and genuine examples of relevant objects including evacuee labels and letters, aircraft recognition cards and a tail fin from a German incendiary bomb.

To mark this celebration of children’s war literature, the Imperial War Museum has commissioned a new short story by author Michael Morpurgo to be illustrated by Michael Foreman. Published in Spring 2011, the book takes its inspiration from a unique object in the Museum’s Collections and will tell another intriguing tale of war.

In addition, there will be a children’s war literature festival at Imperial War Museum London during August 2011 where kids and grown-ups can really get under the covers of their favourite books during a series of author-led lectures, discussions and workshops. Bookworms will also enjoy the array of gifts and souvenirs available from the Imperial War Museum shop throughout the exhibition’s run.

Diane Lees, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum, says: ‘War has inspired authors of children’s stories for generations and we’re delighted to draw together some of the very best examples in Once Upon A Wartime. The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone’s story so focusing on these extraordinary fictional accounts of conflict is an innovative, and we hope successful, way of helping children, and adults, understand the experience of war.’

Once Upon A Wartime opened at Imperial War Museum London on 11 February 2011 and runs until 30 October 2011. It will open at Imperial War Museum North in Manchester in February 2012.

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