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From the horse's mouth
War Horse - Michael Morpurgo
Member Name: catsholiday
War Horse - Michael Morpurgo
Date: 01/08/10, updated on 27/10/11 (200 review reads)
Advantages: A very moving and beautifully written children's book
Disadvantages: Very emotional
Michael Morpurgo "War Horse"
My edition was a Paperback with only 182 pages. It is published by Egmont Books in 2006. I am a big fan of this publisher as they are an Ethical company committed to using products from managed forests and controlled resources. They want the workers involved in the supply chain to produce the books to be treated with fairness and respect. They are a children's book publisher and state that;
" produce books that enrich and entertain.....we go even further, considering the world in which our consumers are growing up"
This was a freebie that I got from a site that I click on and collect points. This was one of the items being offered for the points and as I like Michael Morpurgo's children's books I asked for this. The price on the back is £5.99 but as always you can get it for 1p plus p&p from Amazon.
The blurb on the back reads:
"I saw the grey soldiers ahead of us raise their rifles and heard the death rattle of a machine gun...."
"A powerful story of the truest of friendships in the worst of wars from the award winning former Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo"
I have read that Steven Spielberg purchased the rights to Michael's novel, and he will be directing the film as well. It will be produced by DreamWorks and will be released in August 2011. The stage adaptation was originally put on at London's National Theatre in 2007 and is currently on at the New London Theatre in the West End. Having read the book I would be very interested to see the stage production and how they adapt the story for the stage.
What's the Story?
The story is set in World War One told through the voice of a cavalry horse called Joey. We first meet Joey as a young frightened foal being auctioned at a market. He is bought by a drunken rather rough farmer but fortunately he is lovingly treated by Albert the farmer's son and supported by the farm horse Zoey. Despite being a horse of breeding Joey is taught to work on the farm as no animal can be kept on the farm and not earn its keep as the family had little money.
When war breaks out Joey is sold for the army to use as a cavalry horse which really upsets young Albert who swore he would find Joey again. The rest of the story tells of the horror that Joey faced on the front line, from charges in battle to being caught by the Germans, being used as a gun horse and making and loosing friends all on his way to try to find Albert again.
What did I think?
On one level this is another horse story like of Anna Sewells' "Black Beauty" as it tells the life story of a horse and all he has to go through throughout his life as he changes hands from one owner to the next. On another level it can be seen as a story that shows the horror of the First World War made slightly more palatable for young readers as it is told through the eyes of a horse rather than showing the suffering of the men.The story looks at war from both sides, both the German and English and in very dramatic and awful scene between enemies in the book we clearly see the futility of war.
The story gives an alternate take on the war and how it affected everyone who lived through this shockingly horrific time in history. In some parts it was quite uplifting when the strong spirit of Joey touched the soldiers he worked alongside enabling them to raise their spirits enough to carry on. It opened my eyes as to how the war animals must have suffered during the war and the way that they suffered just as the men did from cold, hunger, danger and exhaustion. Throughout the book Mr Morpurgo does perfect credit to whoever gets dragged into the nightmarish abyss of war at any time and any place and we get a very clear picture of this awful time. His understated style only adds to the qualities that characterize the book as it is.
This is also a story about love and caring. Not only do we have the love and loyalty between Joey and young Albert but we see this throughout the book as after Joey is sold and loses his good friend Albert he becomes loyal to his cavalry rider, then a young girl, other animals and makes relationships with a wide variety of people who also are affected by the war in some way. This is not a light fluffy read and despite the fact this is aimed at younger readers it tells it straight with no glossing over how awful the war was for both soldiers and animals.
The book has a strong storyline and the characters are loveable and you find yourself getting deeply attached to them. There were times when I was almost in tears as Joey does go though the most awful horrors but remains strong and loyal throughout. It brings home the whole feeling of fruitlessness of war and highlights the plight of horses and other innocent animals that become casualties of war.
This would be an excellent book to use with young readers studying World War I as it would stimulate discussion and be a very dramatic way of learning about the horrors od war in general and this one in particular. Morpurgo's style may seem simplistic at first but that is partly because he is aiming the book at younger readers but I found that despite the outwardly simple text I was quickly drawn into the story and wanted to know how things would turn out for Joey.
I can highly recommend this book not only for younger readers but also as an adult I was gripped by the story and wanted to know how he would survive these horrors. Despite the gloominess of the subject matter the story is so well written and there are enough uplifting times to avoid the reader becoming too weighed down by the horrors suffered during the story. The story is tightly written, the narrative excellent, and the things that happen in the story will live with you long after the book is finished.
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Summary: A sensitive and well written story set in WW I and seen through the eyes of a horse