Books were literally flying off the shelves when one of the world’s most popular authors allowed his wellies to take him to Alnwick at the weekend.
Michael Morpurgo, who has penned modern classics such as Warhorse and Private Peaceful, was at Barter Books on Sunday to sign copies of Where My Wellies Take Me, which he co-wrote with his wife Clare.
And the former Children’s Laureate was joined by Wooler-based artist Olivia Lomenech Gill, who illustrated the lavish hardback, for the two-hour meet-and-greet event, which was part of a nationwide launch for the new book.
But the level of interest generated by the visit was somewhat underestimated, as Morpurgo fans began to form a queue between the bookshelves in eager anticipation of meeting the man himself.
Stuart Manley, who established Barter Books 21 years ago with wife Mary, said: “I’ve been getting it the neck from certain quarters about not ordering enough copies of the new book.
“I was at least a hundred short on the day. I had no idea it would be so unbelievably popular. We’ve had book signings before, but this was on a different level.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in the 21 years we’ve had Barter Books. Clearly Michael is on the same level as Roald Dahl when it comes to children’s books, but he also had the adult audience as well through the popularity of Warhorse.”
Stuart’s stack of 40 copies of Where My Wellies Take Me were snapped up within minutes, followed by the few dozen paperbacks he had bought in for the occasion.
And when they ran out, the voracious readers then ferreted out every second-hand Morpurgo title they could find on the shelves, in a bid to have at least something he had written signed.
Stuart added: “When we ran out of second-hand paperbacks, there were people running off down into town to see if they could find a Michael Morpurgo book.
“By the time he left at 1pm, I don’t think you would find a single unsold copy in Alnwick.”
Michael, Clare and Olivia looked happy and relaxed as they signed books, chatted with fans and posed for pictures in what was formerly the waiting room of the old Alnwick Railway Station, now the cafe.
Michael said: “I’ve never been to Barter Books before and it is wonderful. The reception we’ve had has been tremendous.”
Olivia, who met Michael and Clare on a family holiday in France before being asked to illustrate the book, said: “The response has been overwhelming and we’ve had a lovely time.”
Where My Wellies Take Me is based on Clare’s childhood experiences of growing up in rural Devonshire.
A collection of diary-style writings, accompanied by classic British poems, it tells the story of young Pippa as she walks and rides her way through the countryside.