In seventh heaven

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
A former granary provides the perfect venue for finding out more about words. Jessie Anderson takes a look

Some people say there are only seven stories in the world but a thousand different ways of telling them. Seven Stories is about the thousand ways."

This is the message on the wall at the entrance to the recently-opened Seven Stories Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle.

Once a seven-storey Victorian granary, it was rescued and refurbished from a near-derelict state at a cost of pound;6 million. It still retains something of its early character with original oak beams and exposed iron and brickwork, but it is now a magical place where children can discover the excitement of words, not only by reading, but by listening to stories, acting, drawing and writing.

Although a varied education programme offers links to the curriculum across key stages 1 to 3, as marketing manager Alison Gwynne says: "The centre is absolutely not just for children."

Adults, too, can rediscover childhood favourites since the impressive collection of books, plus thousands of rare original manuscripts and artwork, covers the last 70 years, right up to Harry Potter and this year's Traction Man, written by Mini Grey. As one father was overheard to observe:

"This is too good for children."

Browser, the centre's cartoon cat, pops up in various guises on each of the seven levels, inviting children to become writer, artist, explorer, designer, story-teller, reader and collector, with activities linked to each.

Each month there will be an exhibition theme. The first is "Incredible Journeys", focusing on the way books can take the reader into the imaginary lands of stories and posing the questions "What happens when we read?", "Where are we when we are lost in a book and how did we get there?"

October's theme will be "The Big Draw", while November features the Hans Christian Andersen Festival celebrating the writer's 200th birthday anniversary. Each theme will be reflected in the books on display in the superbly stocked book shop.

A standard visit to the centre lasts around three hours and includes a workshop and tour of the current exhibition. Cost is pound;3.50 per child, with two free adults per 10 children. An information pack for teachers is available on booking a visit, tel: 0845 271 0777; www.sevenstories.org.uk

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