Apart from the incessant “why?” questions, most conversations initiated by the two-year-old currently involve talking through the plots of his favourite stories. He’ll climb into bed with us in the morning and whisper “Shall we talk about Peter Rabbit?” or pipe up from the back of the car “Shall we talk about the Gingerbread Man?” It’s sweet, but slightly wearing by the tenth request of the day.
One of the stories he asks to talk about the most is We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, the much-loved classic by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenberry. So when I heard Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things was coming to a town near us I had to take him – if only to give myself a break from telling and retelling the story.
The immersive, interactive exhibition is designed for children aged 0-11 and was created by Discover Children’s Story Centre in consultation with Michael Rosen. Focusing on some of the author’s most famous books, as well as the people and places that inspired him, it takes the audience on a journey through Rosen’s imagination and is perfectly pitched for little ones. After being led on a bear hunt – which was just exciting and scary enough to leave Arthur exhilarated rather than terrified – children are free to explore at their own pace. As well as the bear’s den there are recreations of Rosen’s childhood kitchen, re-imagined as a huge chocolate cake, his old schoolroom and grandparents’ sitting room. Smaller children are content just to play around while there are games and activities to keep bigger ones engaged.
Arthur was completely enthralled and when it was eventually time to leave I had to practically drag him away. For any child who loves the book – and I’ve yet to meet one who doesn’t – it’s a magical experience. We’ve been talking about it ever since.
Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things is on at Cornwall College, Camborne, until July.