Lions, World Book Day & Michael Morpurgo

An incredible 23,945 school pupils joined Sir Michael for a live reading from classic children’s novel The Butterfly Lion, at our webinar last month. Education Officer Charlie Smith reports.

A lioness walking through long grass

A headshot of Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Award-winning guest author and long-term Born Free friend Michael Morpurgo delighted pupils, from 380 schools up and down the country and further afield, when he joined the Born Free Education team online for World Book Day. On the morning of 7th March, there was a lot of excitement in the air, not least amongst our team – many of us having grown up reading Michael Morpurgo’s books for ourselves.  

Michael has written over 150 children’s books, many of which feature animals and wildlife as main themes, characters or even protagonists. In March, he joined Born Free to talk about The Butterfly Lion. The book resonates with our charity, not only because of its storyline, which follows the rescue of a white lion cub, but because – incredibly – it was written after Michael’s chance encounter with Born Free Co-Founder Dame Virginia McKenna DBE. He was so inspired, the book is even dedicated to Virginia.

During the webinar, as well as thrilling children and teachers alike by reading an extract from The Butterfly Lion, Michael gave watching pupils some top tips for writing, told a tale about a pet fish called ‘Swimsy’, and revealed his favourite ever animal. Pupils were equally thrilled to hear from Born Free’s Animal Care Manager, Glen, who joined the webinar all the way from South Africa to tell us the stories of some of the rescued lions and leopards in our care.

The young audience were then able to ask Michael and Glen their own live questions, learning where The Butterfly Lion got its name, and who was Glen’s favourite big cat at our sanctuary within Shamwari Private Game Reserve. It was truly both a fascinating and inspiring morning for everyone watching. Our huge thanks to Michael and Glen and, we can’t wait to see what next World Book Day brings!

If you missed the webinar on World Book Day – worry not. A recording is now available for schools and families to enjoy at any time. Follow the link below, sit back, and prepared to be inspired.