THOUSANDS of free books are being distributed throughout Salisbury, as part of the city's biggest-ever reading project, which got under way last week.

Salisbury REads is an exciting initiative to get people across Salisbury reading and talking about the same book and Journal readers are being invited to take part.

The novel chosen for the project is Kensuke's Kingdom, by the former children's laureate Michael Morpurgo.

A tale of friendship and adventure, the book follows the story of Michael, who is washed up on a mysterious island after he is lost at sea.

Kensuke's Kingdom is a children's book but organisers of Salisbury REads believe that adults will love the exciting tale, too.

Publisher Egmont has printed 5,000 copies of the books that will be distributed free in schools, to community groups and at locations across the city, including at Salisbury library, Ottakar's bookshop, the Salisbury Journal's office and the office of Salisbury International Arts Festival, in Crane Street.

Copies of the books have also been left in public places, such as shops, cafes, restaurants and even on park benches and buses and readers are being encouraged to take them away and share the book with their families and friends.

Journal readers can claim their free copy of Kensuke's Kingdom by filling in the voucher found in last Thursday's (May 4) edition of the paper.

A number of events will go alongside Salisbury REads, including competitions and activities in schools and clubs, and Michael Morpurgo will be answering questions about the book when he comes to the City Hall as part of Salisbury International Arts Festival, on Saturday, June 10, at 11.30am.

Salisbury REads is a collaboration between the festival and Ottakar's bookshop and follows successful reading events in other parts of the country.

Once they have finished the gripping story, people are encouraged to pass the book on or leave it in a public place for another reader to find.

Wayne Winstone, of Ottakar's, said: "The idea of being able to dip in and out of a book and leave for the next person is very exciting.

"It is a fantastic opportunity to communicate how vibrant and energetic the range of books available to children today is."

Mr Morpurgo said he was delighted that his book had been chosen for the project.

He said: "To have 5,000 Salisbury citizens reading the same book at the same time is a cracking idea in itself.

"But to have the books being discovered in different places all over the city, free to whoever finds them, is such a fun way of making it all happen.

"Everyone who reads it will be transported (by yacht) to their own Pacific island, where they'll meet Kensuke and the orangutans, which was just what happened to me when I was writing it."

Charlotte Ashe, of Salisbury festival, added: "We at the festival are really pleased that our sponsor, Ottakar's, is working with us to make Salisbury REads such a brilliant project.

"Kensuke's Kingdom is a terrific book that we know everyone will love reading."

To find out more about Salisbury REads, including details of the competitions, visit