What made you want to collaborate with your wife Clare on Where My Wellies Take Me? What was it like working together on a literary project?
In fact we've done dozens of books together. My writing has always been a collaborative process. Clare has often been the inspiration for a story, usually my first editor, always my first reader. But this story, in a sense, has ben the story of our life, our family, and our work together.
When she was a little girl Clare often came down to stay for her holidays with friends of her father, Peggy and Sean Rafferty, in The Duke of York pub in Iddesleigh, in the Devon countryside. She would spend her days walking the lanes and woodlands round about, getting to know everyone who lived in the farms and cottages. As she often said, she went where her wellies took me, wandered free the farms, the streams, the village churchyard, loving every minute of it.
Twenty-five years later these childhood wanderings became the inspiration of Farms for City Children which we set up in 1975. Like so many teachers, she was simply passing on what she loved to the next generation. She felt, we felt, that it can be a life-changing experience, particularly for city children. Over 120,000 city children have now spent a week on one of the charity's three farms.
As foe working together, it seemed seamless. I retold her story of a walk on the wild-side as a seven year old girl, staying close, in spirit and in fact to her own accounts of these walks. She chose the poems to weave in among the story. We both chose Olivia Lomenech Gill as our illustrator and we're very glad we did. She captured the spirit of the book, and as we had done, fell in love with the village and its people.
Why is poetry so important for children?
I discovered very early on the music of words in poetry (my mother used to read De la Mare and Kipling and Masefield) and the power of that music to conjure up the poet's vision. At its best poetry can open our eyes so we can see and feel anew. It is the intensity of the experience of poetry that touches us, awakens us.
What do you think about Michael Gove's plans for children to learn poetry by rote?
To learn poems by heart is a fine idea, to have the familiarity of a few great poems in your head is grand, simply life enhancing. But to impose it by dictat, to make it seem like a kind of memory test, is a mistake. I had to stand up and recite in front of the class, to stammer my way through poems. I learned only to fear poetry, to hate it even. To want to learn poetry - to be inspired by a teacher to do it - is great and valuable. To be forced to do it - counterproductive.
You've often written about the countryside in your books - has your relationship with nature changed? Is there any author's writing about nature and the countryside that particularly inspires you?
Shakespeare, John Clare, W.B. Yeats, Wordsworth and in our time Sean Rafferty and Ted Hughes and Henry Williamson, Robert Louis Stevenson, all have brought me closer to the countryside I live in, have helped me to feel I belong, and that it belongs to me, at one with nature.
You've said in the past that you would never say no to opening a library - what do you think about the current state of library closures?
To close a library is to shut off an opportunity, perhaps the only opportunity for some, to knowledge and understanding. It is to impoverish
the intellect and starve the emotions. In a civilised society, the availability of literature for everyone, is a right, not a privilege.
It seems like you're busier than ever - what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I shall be working on a film script of my story The Mozart Question with Jane Feaver. And working too on a dramatisation of The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips with Emma Rice at Kneehigh. And I shall be weaving together some ideas for a new novel which I hope to write in the spring of next year.
I will be doing concerts around the country with John Tams and Coope Boyes and Simpson. The play of War Horse opens in Australia and in Berlin next year and will tour the UK, starting in September in Plymouth - that will be a sheer joy to look forward to.
Where My Wellies Take Me by Michael and Clare Morpurgo is published by Templar.
Michael Morpurgo appears at theTelegraph Bath Festival of Children's Literature on 6 October.