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Elmer at Seven Stories

11th March 2019


ELMER and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee, the first ever major retrospective of David McKee’s striking illustration is now open at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books.

For the first time ever, families from across the region can step into David McKee’s colourful world in this characteristically playful Seven Stories exhibition as it celebrates 30 years of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

First stop is Elmer’s world, where visitors will be greeted by a giant Elmer jigsaw and enjoy the ultimate Instagram moment. The adventure continues as guests walk through Elmer’s jungle, encountering characters and stories along the way.

As well as illustrations from the Elmer series there will be original artwork from Not Now Bernard, Mr Benn and an original storyboard of King Rolo as well as the opportunity to visit the fancy-dress costume shop featured in Mr Benn, with dressing up opportunities and a reading area.

Visitors can explore David McKee’s vibrant illustrations in great depth through the use of many multi-sensory elements including colour, texture, sound and magnifying glasses plus visualise McKee’s use of perspective through an interactive mirrored walkway.

Seven Stories will also have a variety of Elmer-themed half-term activities such as Elmer’s Rainbow Playscape, Elmer’s Pounce and Bounce Gallery Games including crafts and gameshosted by its energic and playful Story Catchers.

A dedicated area of the exhibition has been co-produced with Seven Stories’ Young Producers highlighting its organisational commitment to working collaboratively with children and young people.

There is also an accompanying Elmer and Friends schools programme sponsored by First Class Supply suitable for EYFS, KS1 and SEND school visits from 25th February onwards as well as a Picture Book and Storytelling CPD available for teachers.

Elmer remains one of the most widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over ten million copies worldwide since it was first published by Andersen Press in 1989. Written and illustrated by celebrated children’s author and artist David McKee, the Elmer books have been translated into more than 50 languages and now new books, toys and clothing add to the world of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

In the first book of the iconic series, Elmer discovers that when he tries to change his appearance in order to 'blend in' with the other elephants, they no longer recognise him, or accept him. This makes Elmer sad, and he experiences how it feels to be treated like an outcast, after being ostracised by his old friends. It's only when it begins to rain, and the grey paint that Elmer has covered himself with starts to disappear, that Elmer's 'true colours' are revealed, much to the surprise and delight of his friends, who preferred his multicoloured and fun-loving self.

Kate Edwards, Chief Executive of Seven Stories, said: “We can’t wait to invite families to explore this vibrant new exhibition as we wish Elmer a very happy birthday throughout the whole of 2019. This is the first time that some of David’s striking artwork has been on display and we know that families, schools and fans of children’s literature are going to be blown away by the whole exhibition.

“Elmer's appeal has proven to be timeless and universal, opening up conversations around diversity and self-acceptance. Elmer is about celebrating your own true colours and having the confidence to be unique. Children’s books help us discover the world and understand new and sometimes complicated things. The stories that we experience when we are young significantly shape our ideas and perceptions of the world, they help us to be curious and question things. We are living in a confusing political climate that children and young people can find difficult to understand. David’s books are perfect for opening up conversations around diversity and being yourself, something that Seven Stories has championed throughout all of our work with children and young people. David’s books are modern classics and Elmer’s subtle message, that it is ok to be different, resonates with children across the globe.”

David McKee, author of Elmer said: “Elmer is really about accepting who you are, about celebrating difference. We are all different to a greater or lesser degree. We are all different, with so many differences, difference of colour, of accents, but also of size, shape and how we dress. The differences are what make the world so rich. It's strange because we humans seem to like difference in other things - in dogs and trees and flowers, but we don't accept it in people. If people aren't like us, we don't accept them. Elmer tried to be like the other elephants but in the end he has to be himself. I look forward to seeing the faces of all the children and families when they step into the exhibition at Seven Stories.”

Coinciding with the exhibition, Elmer’s Big Art Parade will also be taking place across the city from August 2019. This stunning art trail made up of individually designed sculptures based on the much-loved Elmer character, will stomp its way across the region for 10 weeks from August to October 2019.  Brought to you by St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice in partnership with Wild in Art and Andersen Press, the trail will raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Hospice. 

Families and Elmer fans can enjoy the exhibition at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books every day, excluding Mondays during term-time. Priced at £7.70 for adults and £6.60 children, visitors are encouraged to share their experiences using the hashtag #Elmer30.

Full ticket information is available on the website. https://www.sevenstories.org.uk/

The exhibition runs for a year before it packs its trunk to tour to visitor attractions and venues across the UK.

Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee  is supported by:



For press enquiries please contact Sally at O PR – sally@opr.co.uk  or alternatively call 0191 232 5690

About Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books

Seven Stories is The National Centre for Children’s Books – the only place in Britain dedicated to saving, celebrating and sharing our rich literary heritage for children.

Seven Stories’ home is a carefully converted listed warehouse in Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England. The museum opened in 2005 and visitors can explore seven floors of galleries, creative spaces, a specialist children’s bookshop and a café. Everything Seven Stories does uses children’s books to inspire children and grown-ups to be curious, imaginative and creative.  It strives to encourage people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to enjoy a lifetime of reading for pleasure through inventive and immersive exhibitions and lively events and learning programmes.

  • Seven Stories has built an extensive children’s literature archive covering the 1930s to the present day.  It collects all that goes into the making of a book – first scribbles, dummy books, roughs, final artwork, letters and correspondence, drafts and finished manuscript. The work of over 250 British authors and illustrators, including Judith Kerr, Enid Blyton, Philip Pullman and David Almond is cared for in our Collection – and it is still growing.
  • Over 70,000 people visit us every year, including 8,000 visits from school children.  In addition, Seven Stories works with children and families from disadvantaged backgrounds through outreach and participation work. In 2015/16 over 25,000 children and carers took part in outreach activities to build book and story sharing confidence and enjoyment. Since 2005 over 800,000 people have visited Seven Stories.
  • Seven Stories is increasingly known across the UK by its ambitious touring exhibition programme. More than 1.6 million people have enjoyed a Seven Stories exhibition on tour.
  • Seven Stories is part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio and is an accredited museum with National status, recognising the national and international significance of its collections and the quality of the work in sharing these treasures through its exhibitions and its public and learning programmes.
  • Seven Stories is a charity, all the money earned and raised is used to safeguard the magic of children’s books for future generations to enjoy.

Website: www.sevenstories.org.uk

Twitter: @7stories

Facebook: Facebook.com/7stories

Instagram: @7stories

About Elmer

Elmer remains one of the most iconic and widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over 10 million copies worldwide since it was first published by Andersen Press in 1989. Written and illustrated by celebrated children’s author and artist David McKee, the Elmer books have been translated into more than 50 languages and now new books, toys and clothing add to the world of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

David McKee

David McKee was born in Devon and studied at Plymouth Art College. In the early part of his career, McKee regularly drew and sold humorous drawings to magazines and newspapers such as The Times Educational Supplement, Punch and the Reader’s Digest. David McKee has written and illustrated over 50 picture books for Andersen Press and has penned a number of children’s classics including King Rollo, Mr Benn, Not Now Bernard and Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. David McKee loves to paint and now lives in the South of France but regularly visits London.

About Andersen Press

Andersen Press is a leading independent children’s publisher, and home to some of the biggest names in the world of children’s books, including the much-loved picture book characters Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and the Little Princess. Andersen Press is the publisher of many award-winning authors and illustrators including Melvin Burgess, Rebecca Stead, Susin Nielsen, Julian Clary, David Roberts, Tony Ross, David McKee, and Jeanne Willis. The company was founded in 1976 by Klaus Flugge.

Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk

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