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Adventures with a time travelling cat

Kate Kern, learning and engagement manager

As part of our recent restoration project, we have been creating lots of resources, activities and events to celebrate the long history of Fulham Palace and bring it to life.  The project I was personally most excited to work on was a children’s publication based on the Palace. The brief was tantalisingly open and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the history of the Palace, trying to find that specific spark of inspiration for a story.  It was obvious that we should base the story around our chief mouser Edmund, as he is a much loved member of the Fulham Palace staff team and can be rather mysterious at times!

An element that stood out, was the (seriously) long history of the Palace. We know that the site has been continually inhabited since the Neolithic period, which gives us a lot of material to work with. The fantastic work of our archive research group and community archaeologist, throughout the restoration project, had pulled together a plethora of brilliant anecdotes and tales from over 1000 years of the Palace. Combining all those stories with my love of books such as ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philippa Pearce, ‘A Traveller in Time’ by Alison Uttley and ‘The Chimneys of Green Knowe’ by Lucy M Boston, I knew the story had to involve time travel! I decided that Edmund should take two young visitors to the Palace on an adventure through time… the only trouble was narrowing down which time periods they should visit.

The story unfolds in the storyboard step of the writing process

The goal for the book was to create a story that was engaging and exciting, would be both factual and entertaining and would invite younger visitors to explore the Palace again and again. To achieve this the heritage projects manager and I chose well known events such as the theft of Queen Elizabeth I’s salt cellar and objects on display in the museum that spark wonder: how did a dog’s paw print end up in a Roman tile?

The next step was to plan out what each page should look like… which emphasised the need to get an illustrator involved!

We put a call out to tender for an author and illustrator, contacting agencies, colleges and universities.  We were lucky enough to get lots of applicants and after interviewing, ARAL ETC were chosen to take the project forward. Designer Suzan Aral worked with author Imogen White and illustrator Jo Williamson to being the Palace to life.

Matilda, Tom, Edmund and mysterious stranger, rough version
Matilda, Tom, Edmund and mysterious stranger, ruff version

This dream team worked tirelessly through lots of drafts, liaising with the Fulham Palace team to ensure that the story was historically accurate, whilst being fun.

We are all very proud of the final wonderful book, which we hope children will enjoy for years to come.

The Palace Cat: Adventures in time at Fulham Palace is released on Sunday 25 October and will be available in the Fulham Palace shop (open Thursday to Sunday 12.00 – 16.00) and in our online shop.  To celebrate the launch, get 10% off the book by taking a completed free family trail (available at the museum entrance) to the Palace shop! We’re currently holding a competition to name the little mouse that is hidden in each page of the book and joins Edmund on his adventures. The winning name will win a signed copy of the Palace Cat. Send in your mouse name suggestions by tagging us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram using #trailsandtails #palacecat so we can see your suggestions.