Wonderful Oliver Jeffers exhibition in London turns his children's illustrations into an immersive play space

It's your last chance to see Lost and Found, Up and Down, and How to Catch A Star brought to life at the Discover Children's Story Centre in Stratford.


The Discover Chidren's Story Centre in Stratford is one of London's best creative spaces for children – and one of my son Adam's favourite places. There are regular readings and art sessions from leading children's authors and illustrators – coming up soon are Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright as well as Claire Freedman and Ben Cort – but it's the special installations that have turned a large space in the basement into a succession of magical worlds that have left the greatest impression on us.

In the past these have included The House Where Winter Lives – an interactive play for children by the usually-for-adults-only theatre company Punchdrunk that brought out the most enraptured look I've ever seen on Adam's face - and it's latest exhibition is an inspiring and creative experience too.

Once There Was... The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers turns the space into a compressed version of the worlds found in the author and illustrator's best known books: Lost and Found, Up and Down, How to Catch A Star and The Way Back Home. Visiting one Sunday in October, we were greeted at the door by the Lost and Found officer, who led the children and adults in song before letting them loose on the exhibition.

The fantastic exhibition is set to close its doors on 6 September, so these next two weeks will be your last chance to visit.

Read on to see more of what's on show in this Oliver Jeffers interactive exhibition.

Once inside we were led through a succession of perfect renderings of locations from Oliver's books: the boy's bedroom (with sleeping penguin), a street with shops including the Lost and Found Office, a kitchen, a garden with The Way Back Home's space rocket and the South Pole that the boy attempts to take the penguin 'home' to in Lost and Found.


The installations form a space that children can play imaginatively in – rowing the boat, running around with penguin toys, dressing up as the boy or adding their own lost item tag at the Lost and Found office – and there are multiple copies of Oliver's books for children to read (or parents to read to them).

What makes Once There Was... is the attention to detail. Every element from the hand-painted type to the contents of the fridge in the kitchen look exactly as if they were in one of Oliver's books. There are many hidden things that are found only through exploration, such as a tiny coffeeshop that can be seen through a mouse hole in a skirting board.

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Once There Was... The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers is both fun and a great way to encourage children to see Oliver's world not only as something the experience but something they can create their own stories within.

It's for children under 6 - though older children (and grown-ups) can accompany them. It runs until September 6 2015 and is free with entry to Discover, but you'll need to book a timed ticket as the centre limits numbers to stop the place being overcrowded.


The South Pole sign from Lost and Found.


A fishmonger's shop.

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The boy's bedroom (the sleeping penguin had already been 'woken up' by visiting children at this point).


The kitchen.


This cabinet in the kitchen was full of illustrated crockery.

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