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Books About Town

Home > London > Literary | Family | Books and Writing | Art | Walks
by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
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Sit on a Bench with Clarice Bean
books About town, bench, dr seuss

Recently I've read about some treasure hunts that involve using a mobile app that directs you where to go. Treasure hunts are fun, I'm not keen on the idea of using a mobile phone to get around. First of all not everyone has a mobile phone (gasp), second I just consider it one more excuse to be looking at your phone rather than where you are going (it drives me mad when people are walking along the street with their eyes glued to their mobile, without the slightest consideration for other people), and third, I think it is far more fun to use a good old fashioned map, which actually helps you brush up on your map reading skills, and is much more tactile.

Fortunately these sorts of treasure hunts are still around, and the one I went on yesterday took me on a literary journey around London. Books About Town formed out of a collaboration between the National Literacy Trust and Wild in Art. Together the two organisations have created fifty benches designed in the shape of an open book, and beautifully painted by illustrators to commemorate some of Britain's best literature and their authors.

There are four trails that you can go on, which will remain until the 15th September before the benches are auctioned off for charity. Trails are in Bloomsbury, Greenwich, the City of London, and South Bank. Each trail comes with a quiz, which you can enter for a chance to win 100 worth of children's book vouchers.

I went on the riverside trail around South Bank because it is my favourite area of London. There is no specific order you have to follow, just whichever is nearest when you arrive.

books About town, bench, the librarian, war horse

Getting off at London Bridge, the first bench I found was War Horse. Written in 1982 by Michael Morpurgo, the story is told from the perspective of Joey, a horse who is drafted into World War One. The novel was adapted into both a play and a film, which also explores the heart wrenching journey his owner, Albert, goes on to get him back.

books About town, bench, the librarian, war horse

Each bench has a plaque telling you who the artist is, and the inspiration behind it. Here, Gerard Strong painted the original illustration by Rae Smith, which depicts a poignant images of soldiers charging to their death.

books About town, bench, the librarian, clarice bean

On a lighter note, Clarice Bean took the lime light on the next bench. It was designed by the author, Lauren Child, and brought to life by Jane Headford.

books About town, bench, the librarian, alice, through the looking glass

While Clarice has to put up with an annoying brother, Alice has her own problems to deal with in the form of the Queen Through the Looking Glass. I love the dimensions of this painting, with the black and white squares creating all sorts of perspectives.

books About town, bench, the librarian, dr seuss

Fancy some green eggs and ham for lunch? Enjoy it on the Dr Seuss bench, with all your favourite characters. In the most colourful bench on the trail, The Cat in the Hat gives a storytelling session.

books About town, bench, the librarian, how to train your dragon

I must admit I was surprised to find How to Train Your Dragon on the trail. I thought it was just a film. I should have expected that it was actually adapted from a book by Cressida Cowell.

books About town, bench, the librarian, discworld

Despite not being a fan of Terry Pratchett's books, I love Discworld cover art, which makes The Librarian my favourite bench along the trail. The Librarian first appeared in The Colour of Magic; he was turned into an orang-utan, and decided to stay like that because he preferred it to being human.

books About town, bench, paddington

You can find more animal menagerie at the Paddington Bench, where a certain young bear will be eating a marmalade sandwich after a long voyage.

books About town, bench, great expectations

Travel back to Victorian London in a night scene by Ivan Liotchev, who creates the atmosphere of Dickens's novel, Great Expectations.

books About town, bench, shakespeare

Coming to the end of the trail, I met up with Shakespeare. This was a very popular bench indeed. There was a continuous stream of tourists lining up to have their photo taken on it. The yellow-brown tinge used for the background make it look like aged paper.
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Why? Fun for art lovers
When: Until 15th Sept
Where: Across London
Cost: Free
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