‘Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels’ opens at the British Library

© Zog by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler  2010 (Alison Green Books)
  • Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels is a free, family friendly exhibition showcasing the British Library’s vast collection of children’s literature, opening tomorrow

  • Featuring over 50 books, manuscripts and original artwork, the exhibition includes characters such as Tracy Beaker, Pippi Longstocking, Jane Eyre, Dirty Bertie, Billy from Billy and the Beast and Matilda and spans over 300 years, inviting visitors to rediscover their favourite characters, as well as meet new ones

  • A celebration of rebels in children’s literature, the exhibition will examine what it means to be a rebel through an array of characters from some of the most memorable children’s books

  • The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events including talks from world-famous authors such as Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child and Malorie Blackman as well as family activity workshops.

Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels (8 November 2019 – 1 March 2020) is a free British Library exhibition spotlighting famous rebels in children’s literature. Featuring such perennial favourites as Tracy Beaker, Pippi Longstocking, Jane Eyre and Matilda, as well as new characters including Omar from Planet Omar, Billy from Billy and the Beast and Dirty Bertie, this exhibition will shine a light on the Library’s vast collection of children’s literature and explore an array of vibrant characters who break the rules and defy conventions.

Books and manuscripts from the Library’s collections, in addition to original artwork, will tell the history of rebels in children’s literature, from the 17th century to items published as recently as this year. In addition, there are also loan items from Axel Scheffler, Beano Studios and DC Thomson & Co. Ltd., David Roberts, Lauren Child, Marie-Alice Harel, Sir Quentin Blake, Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, The Folio Society, Seven Stories and Zanib Mian to help illustrate the history of children’s books and their ongoing relevance today.

The exhibition will highlight how rebels in children’s literature have been presented in many different ways: characters who stand up for what they believe in, break away from convention, have a cause they are striving for, are extremely resilient, survive difficult situations, or are just slightly mischievous.

Exploring characters’ adventures as well as adversities at home, at school and on journeys, the exhibition will also include interactive elements such as the opportunity to write your own story, or dress up as a rebel. Exhibition cases have been lowered especially for this exhibition so young visitors are able to engage with the literature and artwork on display.

Amongst the recognisable characters on display, highlight items will also include:

  • The oldest item in the exhibition, a Latin textbook containing doodles from rebellious schoolboys, titled Sententiæ pueriles,1680
  • A first edition of Pippi Longstocking published in Sweden, 1945, a character who protects the vulnerable and stands up to adults
  • The first UK edition of Anne of Green Gables, 1908, an imaginative, impulsive character who changes those around her with the force of her personality
  • The first version of Cruikshank’s colour illustrations of Oliver Twist, a young boy who challenges his position by “asking for more”
  • The Boy at the Back of the Class, by Onjali Raúf, winner of best story at the Blue Peter Book Awards (2019) and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019 detailing the power of friendship and shedding light on the refugee crisis
  • Jessica Love’s Julian is a Mermaid (2018), an exploration of self-identity
  • Original artworks by much-loved illustrators including Axel Scheffler (Zog), Sir Quentin Blake (Matilda), Nick Sharratt (Tracy Beaker), Judith Kerr (When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit), which also demonstrate the crucial relationship between authors and illustrators in the creation of children’s literature.

Lucy Evans, lead curator of Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels, said:

Marvellous and Mischievous is a fun, interactive exhibition all about exploring what makes a young ‘rebel’ in children’s stories. 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.’  


There will be a series of events inspired by the exhibition, including 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 recommend in advance on the website here.

During the exhibition's run, the British Library's 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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Natasha Naidoo
The British Library
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e: natasha.naidoo@bl.uk

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