Today the children and I headed into the city (well, just outside) to Z-Arts to visit the ‘A World Inside a Book’ exhibition. We had hoped to join some home ed friends at a home ed group booking a few weeks back, but the date and time didn’t work for us, so I made a separate booking for today.
The tickets are priced at £7.35 for adults and children (babes in arms are £3) but we managed to get a family ticket for £25 which reduced the cost a little. Happily there’s plenty of parking close by (free for up to 3 hours on road parking) so we didn’t incur additional costs plus it’s pretty accessible on public transport from the City Centre.
The A World Inside a Book is a year-long exhibition that invites children into the world of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and promises to be an immersive experience. There are also plenty of craft activities to get involved in before or after the exhibition so it’s quite easy to spend an hour or two there. It was much needed for us as it’s been a rather wet week here in Manchester and we’ve all been feeling a bit cooped up!
We got there early so headed up to the craft area. There were four table areas set up with themed crafts. The ones that were out today were to make an Owl mask, mouse ear headband, a superwormpuppet and a snake hand puppet. There was plenty of paper and pens and other crafty items and the children enjoyed working their way around the tables and trying their hand at various crafts. They’re well set up with clear instructions to help you guide children through the process for the activities and more than enough materials to work with. The area wasn’t busy whilst we were there but it can easily seat 20 or so children (probably more).
We then headed down to the cafe to pop to the loo and then went to play in the dressing up area near the cafe. The children enjoyed playing there with the clothes and the toys. When the time came for our visit slot (you book onto a specific slot) we made our way back to the entrance and, when invited to, followed the footprints into the exhibition area.
You enter into a room where you can leave bags/coats if you wish to, and the wall is adorned with large cover illustrations of many of Julia Donaldson’s best-loved stories – complete with Axel Scheffler’s wonderful illustrations. Once everyone is ready you enter into a second room which is Charlie Cooks Room (from Charlie Cooks Favourite Book. This is very well done and the children were invited to sit on the floor whilst Charlie Cook’s friend read a story (it was the Snail and the Whale for us). The reading is very well done and kept all the children captivated (most were pre-school age as we went in school time). Once the story is finished the children move into the main exhibition which is fabulously well done. The children all ran in and ran from space to space as they immersed themselves into a whole array of stories.
This is very well done – and it’s literally like being inside the stories. Everything is so instantly recognisable and my favourite was the little old lady’s house from A Squash and a Squeeze. Daniel enjoyed Snail & The Whale and Harry liked Stickman’s tree. Emma loved Zog and the Snail & the Whale. I was a bit sad to not spot my personal fave, Tabby McTat but there are so many wonderful stories to choose from it’s hard to fit them all in.
The children moved from story to story and this is a very hands-on exhibition with so much to see and do and get involved in. It’s really fantastic and all the children were completely engrossed in it as they bounded from story to story shouting out their favourite characters.
When the bell chimes, however, it is time to leave the story world and you’re led back into the initial room where you can collect bags and coats. Next door is a screening room where those stories that have been turned into animations are played should you wish to stay and watch.
The experience lasts about 45 minutes which does feel a little on the short side to me and if truth be told I did feel a bit like it was a little pricey for what it was, but that said the children loved it and I am glad it’s something we did.
I like Z-Arts a lot and it’s a place worth visiting if you’re in the area. There’s a nice cafe on site with reasonably priced snacks and drinks and it’s a very friendly and relaxed place to spend an hour or so. It’s something I think the children enjoyed and will remember when we revisit these stories.