Michael Morpurgo was born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1943. He was a teacher for ten years before leaving to set up ‘Farms for City Children’ with his wife, to give inner city children an opportunity to live and work with animals. In 1999 this work was publicly recognised when he and his wife were awarded an MBE for services to youth.
Morpurgo is the author of many books for children, five of which have been made into films. He also writes his own screenplays and libretti for opera. His books often tackle social issues: Out of the Ashes (2001), for example, is about the foot-and-mouth crisis. His most popular books include Why the Whales Came (1985), which was made into a film starring Helen Mirren; King of the Cloud Forests (1988), which won the Cercle D'Or Prix Sorciere (France); and My Friend Walter (1988) and Out of the Ashes (2001), which were both adapted for television.
His books have won numerous awards, including the 1995 Whitbread Children's Book Award for The Wreck of the Zanzibar; the .
Nestlé Smarties Book Prize (Gold Award) for The Butterfly Lion (1996) and the 2000 Children’s Book Award for Kensuke's Kingdom (1999). Private Peaceful (2003), which tells the story of two brothers during the First World War, won the 2005 Red House Children's Book Award and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the 2004 Whitbread Children's Book Award.
In 2003 Michael Morpurgo became the third Children's Laureate, a scheme he had originally helped to set up with poet Ted Hughes. The Laureateship rewards a lifetime contribution to children's literature and highlights the importance of the role of children's books.