Wednesday, July 9, 2014

London's illustrated "BookBench" project

London's Books About Town "BookBench" project has planted 50 literary-themed places to park your tush in that great metropolis. With brand new art, each of them depicts a popular tome or author (both highbrow and lowbrow). At the end of the summer, all of the benches will be auctioned at the Southbank Centre to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust.
Two of the benches relate to our current Forum marking the 100th anniversary of  World War I: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (above) and the children's novel War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (below). First published in 1925, Woolf's novel details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional upper-class woman living in post-war England. Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister," it centers on Clarissa's preparations for a party she will host that evening. With an interior perspective, the story travels forwards and backwards in time and in and out of the characters' minds to construct a cross-section of inter-war social structures.  (Fittingly, this BookBench is on the "Bloomsbury Trail.")
Morpurgo's story recounts the experiences of Joey, a horse purchased by the Army for service in France and the attempts of young Albert, his previous owner, to bring him safely home. It was the basis of both an award-winning play (2007) and an acclaimed film (2011). We also have I Believe in Unicorns by Murpurgo, who is a British Children's Laureate.
Other literary works and authors celebrated include 1984 by George Orwell, Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, Dr Seuss, The Jeeves and Wooster tales by P.G. Wodehouse (above), P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, Paddington Bear, James Barrie's Peter Pan, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare's London, and C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (below).

Lewis Carroll's perspective-shifting Through the Looking Glass as imagined by prolific illustrator Ralph Steadman.
This bench by Trevor Skempton riffs on imagery from The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by Oscar Wilde.
The Sherlock Holmes bench by Valerie Osment.
Pupils at Hillside High School in Bootle, Liverpool, decided to let Charles Dickens be the inspiration behind their very own BookBench. Titled Dickens in Liverpool, this is the only bench that was painted in a school.
The Samuel Pepys bench by Michele Petit-Jean depicts the Great Fire of London.
Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book with Bagheera, Kaa, and Shere Khan.
Which of these benches would you bid on?
Click here to visit our "Spotlight" feature on the ancient city of London—its history, literature, and mystique!
Visit our World War I Forum here, with books, quizzes, videos, DVDs and more.


  1. These bookbenches are AMAZING! I have so many favorites here. The one done by the school children (Charles Dickens) and Through the Looking goodness! And Mrs. Dalloway, I could gaze at that one All day.

    1. It's really hard to pick, but I love the concept and execution of the War Horse one. But I'd love to have Alice, Mowgli, and Narnia in my yard!!

  2. Aesthetically, I think I would have to choose either the Mrs. Dalloway, Mowgli, or the Sherlock Holmes. It is hard to not be influenced more by story than by image. I can't think of any books I would like to see made in to benches off the top of my head, but I have a feeling of something missing

  3. Out of all the benches I was most drawn to and in awe of Mowgli, the vibrant colors and artwork, just gorgeous. I like how every bench just has hints the book it's inspired by, each bench has its own element of originality to it.

  4. I liked Sherlock Holmes the best...also thought the War Horse one was beautiful. Would love to see a Harry Potter one.