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Five reasons to visit Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels at the British Library

Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels is a free British Library exhibition running from 8 November 2019 until 1st of March 2020. It highlights the famous rebels found throughout children’s literature.

Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels at the British Library and tells the history of familiar rebels in children’s literature. The brave, the wild and the wicked can all be found in this exhibition that celebrates storytelling throughout time. It’s fun and interactive and all about books. If you needed 5 reasons to get yourself down to the British Library – we’ve found them!

Celebrate rebels

The exhibitions shows us that rebels are great and they most definitely always have a cause. Lucy Evans, lead curator of Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels, says: “Children’s literature over the last 300 years has shown that rebels come in all shapes and sizes from the wilful, bold Matilda, the ambitious Princess Pearl to the resilient Ahmet from The Boy at the Back of the Class. Many of the books displayed in the exhibition share powerful messages highlighting contemporary themes prevalent amongst the younger generation and illustrate how literature can inspire and motivate society today.” 

That’s what makes a great everlasting stories. The characters within that can stand the test of time. There’s loads of immortal favourites in this exhibition like Tracy Beaker, Pippi Longstocking, Jane Eyre and Matilda (this writer’s favourite!) and these classics are presented alongside new more modern counterparts including Omar from Planet Omar, Billy from Billy and the Beast and Dirty Bertie. The British Library has a vast collection of children’s literature and this exhibition gives visitors a chance to explore some of the colourful characters that break the rules and defy convention. Impart childhood heroes with your little people and rejoice in their rebellious side. Sure we need rules, but sometimes we need to break them (and make our own too). 

Write your own story

And speaking of making your own rules. The exhibition has plenty of interactive opportunities for young Londoners including the write your own story station where little people can get their creative juices flowing. Families can explore characters’ adventures (as well as adversities) at home and at school and little Londoners can pen their own short story. Get your pen to paper and then pin it up to become part of the exhibition. We delighted in reading through the stories of the day.

Bring stories to life

We love a bit of dressing up in this household. So we were delighted to see there’s a dress-up option where families can transform into their favourite rebel and bring stories to life amidst the manuscripts in the exhibition. Become a pirate, an evil queen or a dragon. Or just make up a character and bring it to life. Take on a new persona and see where the story takes you.

Reading nook

There’s a reading nook with books for all ages, from pop-up books of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan (the toddler’s favourite!) through to Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and more. We spent a good while leafing through the various options and I felt quite guilty for not reading more hard copy books myself. Something I am going to rectify this evening! Then before I could blink the toddler was off and on to the gift shop (which also has a brilliant selection of books!)


There’s a bunch of wonderful events inspired by the exhibition (I want to attend all of them) There’s a range of adult learning courses from Illustrating Children’s Literature and Interactive Fiction to a weekend creative writing masterclass on Children’s Fiction and a study day on Fairy Tales. School groups can enjoy exclusive access on Tuesdays and Wednesdays including free, activity-led facilitated workshops for Primary students. Highlights include:

Monday 11 November: Jacqueline Wilson Rebel Girls, celebrating her latest Tracy Beaker book, We Are The Beaker Girls
Friday 15 November: Hey, That’s Like My Friend, celebrating a new raft of diverse voices in children’s literature with Zanib Mian, winner of the Little Rebels Award (Planet Omar), and Onjali Raúf, Blue Peter Book Award winner and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019 (The Boy at the Back of the Class)
Sunday 17 November: Relaxed Early Opening for Families, with children on the autism spectrum and other sensory need
Monday 25 November: Crick Crack Club: Rebel Children, Performance storytelling by Jan Blake and Ben Haggarty
Sunday 1 December: A Marvellous and Mischievous Sunday, featuring three sessions with world-famous authors such as Lauren Child, Dougie Poynter and Patrice Lawrence
Thursday 12 December: Literature Matters: Young Rebels, with former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, reflecting on her writing career and how her work has been adapted into graphic fiction, plays and TV series.

Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels is a free exhibition, but booking is recommended in advance on the website here.

During the exhibition’s run, the British Library will offer a children’s lunchbox for £4 in The Last Word café on the Piazza, the Upper Ground Café and the Terrace Café (Floor 1) or a free children’s main course with any adult main course purchased in our Terrace Restaurant – details available here.

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