Born in 1943, he attended schools in London, Sussex and Canterbury. He went on to King's College London, University of London to study English and French, graduating with a 3rd class degree. He then joined the teaching profession with a job in a primary school in Kent, where he discovered his vocation in life.
Morpurgo's biological father is actor Tony Van Bridge. His mother, Kippe Cammaerts, who had been an actress, met Jack Morpurgo while Bridge was away during World War II. Morpurgo did not find out who his biological father was until he was 19, when watching the 1962 film version of Great Expectations with his mother, in which Bridge appeared. Morpurgo has one older brother, Peter.
Morpurgo's first job was as a primary school teacher. In his late twenties, while he was teaching, he discovered his talent for storytelling, of which he later said "I could see there was magic in it for them, and realized there was magic in it for me."
In 2009, he donated the short story "Look At Me, I Need a Smile" to Oxfam's Ox-Tales project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Morpurgo's story was published in the "Water" collection.
Morpurgo's work is noted for its "magical storytelling", for recurring themes such as the triumph of an outsider or survival, for characters' relationships with nature, and for vivid settings such as the Cornish coast or World War I.
Michael married Clare, eldest daughter of Sir Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books. In 1976, Michael and Clare established the charity Farms for City Children, with the primary aim of providing children from inner city areas with experience of the countryside. The programme involves the children spending a week at a countryside farm, during which they take part in purposeful farmyard work.
Morpurgo was involved in the development of the Children's Laureate role: "The idea for the Children's Laureate originated from a conversation between (the then) Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and children's writer Michael Morpurgo." He was the third person to fill the two-year position, from 2003 to 2005.
Gentle Giant was presented as an opera by composer Stephen McNeff and librettist Mike Kenny at the Royal Opera House in 2006. Film versions have been made of Friend or Foe (1981), Private Peaceful (2012) and Why the Whales Came (1989), the latter also being adapted to a stage play. My Friend Walter (1988) 'Purple Penguins' (2000) and Out of the Ashes (2001) have been adapted for television.
Composer Stephen Barlow created a musical adaptation of Rainbow Bear, narrated by his wife Joanna Lumley. This was subsequently presented as a ballet by the National Youth Ballet of Great Britain in August 2010.
Reception and impact
This section requires expansion. (February 2013)
Reading Matters calls Morpurgo's 1999 Kensuke's Kingdom "A quietly told story, but plenty of drama and emotion."