Berlie Doherty


Blue John

Blue John by Berlie Doherty

Sadly, Blue John is now out of print. A new edition will be published by Barrington Stoke in 2017.

Beautifully written picture books, where the words are cut and polished like jewels, have been all but eclipsed by the current vogue for funny, quirky books. Which is why we should treasure writers like Berlie Doherty who are incapable of writing a mediocre sentence. Blue John is created by the Queen of Darkness from the purple-blue heart of a glacier and the gold of the sun to live with her in the caverns under the mountain. He must never leave the darkness for the light, she warns, or he will turn to stone. But the sound of children’s laughter and games outside is impossible to resist.’

The Sunday Telegraph, 20 April 2003

The internationally celebrated Lindsay String Quartet invited me to write a ‘story to music’ for their Christmas concert. I chose the haunting piece by the Czech composer, Smetana, From My Life. It made me think of ice and darkness and sunlight, and the caverns of Castleton near where I live in Derbyshire. Deep in those caverns a beautiful stone called Blue John is mined and fashioned into wine goblets, jewellery and other ornaments. So I invented a character called Blue John, a little boy who is made out of stone…

The first performance, which was directed by Peter Cheeseman, was at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, on 12 December 1999. The players were the Lindsays and the readers were Romy Saunders and David Kendal.

See my Using music page for more information.

Visit this web page for a fabulous display of classwork on Blue John.

Like many of my picture books, Blue John is used extensively in primary schools as a stimulus for art, music, dance and creative writing. Although it has been out of print for some time I still receive many letters from all round the world from teachers who love to use longer picture books like this to inspire their children.

I’m very proud to tell you about a lovely set of felt hangings depicting the story, and inspired by Tim’s illustrations. They have been made by members of High Peak Community Arts, and they are a feast of jewel-like colours now gracing the walls of Buxton Library, which will be their home.

Writing idea

Listen to a piece of music, and while you are listening, draw pictures or write word pictures of what the music puts into your mind. Listen again, and let a story develop from the pictures. Try different kinds of music and see what different kinds of pictures they put into your mind.

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