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In The Imperial War Museum, a little wooden dog stands in a glass display case. He was donated to the museum in 2005 by a family who lived at a farm in Kent. The little dog was made from cast-off apple boxes by a German prisoner of war who worked at the farm.
The little dog, 'Manfred', inspired Michael Morpurgo to write a fictional account about the prisoners and their relationship with the family, specifically the little girl, who lived at the farm. The story discusses the tragic realities surrounding the sinking of the Hood and the Bismarck and visualises the deep emotional scars that would have haunted the survivors. On a lighter note, the book also touches on another confrontation between England and Germany: the famous 1966 World Cup final. To discover how all these separate plot elements come together, you will have to read the book for yourself!
When Morpurgo writes for children, he never talks down to his audience. The material in this story is sometimes distressing, even shocking, yet the themes are always covered in a dignified, respectful and gentle manner that put the reader at ease. Morpurgo never shies away from the emotional issues surrounding events and I must admit that as with most of his books, I was blinking back tears whilst reading.
Little Manfred is another shining example of Michael Morpurgo's excellent storytelling, again bringing together his favourite subjects; war history and the relationship between man and animals. The book brings history to life for young readers and will ensure that the events of the past remain alive in the minds of the next generation.
A wonderful mixture of old and new, Little Manfred will appeal to readers from the age of 8 to 108, with its charming narrative, beautiful illustrations and fascinating storyline. I devoured the whole book in one sitting.