Tag Archives: Michael Morpurgo

War Horse – Michael Morpurgo

I should open today’s post with a disclaimer right from that start that books about WWI or WWII are something I feel over saturate the market. If done well they can be incredibly emotive and powerful but all too often they fall into the ‘man and woman fall in love, he goes off to war, its horrific, she hears he is dead but actually it was a mistaken telegram and they get back together, the end’. I should also mention that I don’t really like horses (much to the dismay of one of my closest friends) be they real or fictional ones. Why on earth read ‘War Horse’ then? Actually not because of the movie, which I was slightly aware was being released soon, but because I saw DogEarDiscs rate it five stars on Good Reads and had been contemplating reading more YA so it seemed like a good idea.

Egmont Books, paperback, 1982, fiction, 182 pages, borrowed from the library

I didn’t think I was going to like ‘War Horse’ when I started it, not because war books are so hit and miss with me or because I don’t like horses, both facts are true yet I knew this was coming from the title so was ready, but because I didn’t expect the novel to be narrated by the horse, Joey, himself. As soon as I realised this I thought something a little ruder than ‘oh no’ because my saccharine alert had been switched on. Like child narrators, animal narration can kill a book with one out of place word or description. Interestingly ‘War Horse’ both excels and in some ways fails because of this device.

Joey is a half bred foal when he is separated from his mother at an auction, ‘little I was worth’, and bought by an alcoholic farmer at a market in Devon who doesn’t actually want him but buys him as he is so cheap. On the farm he meets Albert and the two form an instant bond, slowly but surely Joey becomes one of the finest horses around, something Albert’s father never believed possible, yet when war is declared Albert’s father sees an opportunity of financial gain and the fates of Joey and Albert are changed, especially as Albert is not old enough to fight. Despite the fact I know you can all imagine what happens with the novel I don’t want to give too much more away but we do from this point see the war through the eyes of a horse.

In some ways Joey narrating this is a really interesting idea. It gives a very different spin on the whole war idea, a different angle in many ways. This is also probably much more effective on its intended audience as this book is aimed at a younger market and so in a way makes this more accessible, we all like animals on the whole when we are younger don’t we?  Yet as an adult reading this it added a certain distance, it was emotive and I could imagine as a kid this book hitting home but as an adult it really wasn’t. As the story plays out further characters, it is a war after all, might not be around for all that long and so characters are never quite feel fully developed. Great to illustrate to children the effects of war and quite shocking, as an adult I wanted further character development before I could really feel losses as and when they came, even in the case of Emilie which should have been much more effecting.

This isn’t all negative I promise. There are some very successful moments for example when Joey crosses no man’s, interestingly when it is just Joey describing his surrounding and the atmosphere, was very eerie indeed. I also thought Morpurgo did something that was particularly clever, and that was to not create any major villains. In fact all the ‘baddies’, apart from the war itself, are offstage really. Morpurgo doesn’t make the British soldiers ‘good’ and the German’s ‘bad’ instead he illustrates two sides of a war and how innocent men were brought into it from both sides because they had no choice/felt it was right for their country but didn’t want the war in the first place. That I thought was very powerful.

As you can see it’s a mixed bag of feeling for me with ‘War Horse’. I am glad that I have read it, but it didn’t hit all the buttons I had hoped it would, thankfully though it wasn’t saccharine in the slightest, it moved me, just not as much as I was expecting it was going to. I do think that I should mention that the book was originally published in 1982, it’s as old as me can you believe it, and I think naturally all books, not just children’s, have developed with a society that isn’t as easy to shock so that needs to be taken into account too.

I would be interested to see how it has been adapted though; my uncle and cousin came back from the movies and had clearly had a good cry. Who else has read it? Who has seen the play or the film? What did you think?

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Filed under Egmont Books, Michael Morpurgo, Review, Young Adult Fiction

Could This Be My Year for YA?

Yesterday I told you about the incredible novel that was ‘A Monster Calls’ and now I want to try his Chaos Walking series, at the same time the book that is currently highest on my wish list at the moment (and this has come completely out the blue as I don’t really like horses or war in real life or books) is ‘War Horse’ by Michael Morpurgo. ‘Erm, and, so what?’ I can hear you cry. Well, the thing that these two books have in common is that they are YA novels. What makes that all the more interesting is that I will admit that I have been somewhat of a YA snob, hey honesty is the best policy, in the past. So I am wondering if 2012, and oddly the year I go into my thirties, might be the year that I start to become a convert to YA novels.

I got talking about this rather a lot on twitter the other day and there were several novels discussed that came from that stable. One was ‘The Hunger Games’ which I have tried (loathed) and failed with and sadly got a bit cross and bored with everyone talking about when it came out, the next were the ‘Twilight’ series  which I tried and read some of but then decided the films were better. The two titles that came up that I fancied were ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece’ by Annabel Pitcher which I was sent last year and have yet to read and the other was ‘Life: An Exploded Diagram’ by Mal Peet about the Cold War which The Book Boy has read and really enjoyed.

  

Naturally I thought I would ask you all for recommendations as people aren’t on twitter 24/7 (not that I am saying any of you are on Savidge Reads all day either, ha) and your thoughts on adult dipping their toes into YA. I should note I was asking my 13 year old sister for some recommendations at Xmas but she was re-reading SJ Watson’s ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ though will be reading ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness next, as might her big brother. So what say you, which titles modern or classics have you loved and would recommend giving a whirl?

We will be discussing this on The Readers in a few weeks too.

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Filed under Book Thoughts

The Bookboy Reads #2

Hello and welcome to my second book blog. Hope you will enjoy it and thank you very much for the response I got for my first blog.

My first book today is going to be a newly released book. A couple of weekends ago, I went to one of my favourite bookshops and had £35 to spend. I had already picked up, Dido by Adele Geras, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce, Titanic 2010 by Colin Bateman and The War of Jenkins’ Ear by Michael Morpurgo, when I spotted Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale, lying with a magnificent newspaper style front cover.

The main characteris an 11~12 year old boy called, as you may have guessed, Johnny Swanson. It is set in 1929. Johnny is very small for his age and therefore is teased at school. He also has a lot to live up to, as his father (Harry Swanson), died a war hero. Johnny and his mother are poor and Johnny wants to change that, but when he sees an advertisement in the newspaper for “The secret of Instant Height”, he steals the money from his mother and sends off for the answer. Only four words are written on the piece of paper. What are the four words and what will his course of action be?

I had never heard of Eleanor Updale before and was pleasantly surprised by how good the book was. I was shocked by some of the events that occurred in the book and it really did open my eyes as to how unjust things can be. I would recommend this book only for children of ten years of age or over as some of the language is unsuitable and some portions of the book may be harder for younger children to understand.If you have read and enjoyed Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, then this book will definitely be for you.

My next book is Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. I have only recently read this, because I’d been putting it off and off. I thought it wasn’t going to be any good, but it was fantastic.The main character is a 12 year old criminal mastermind called Artemis Fowl. Fairies exist, and they aren’t just sweet ladies with wings, a lot are tough policeman with guns. However, Artemis knows that each fairy carries a book, with the laws of the fairies within it. Artemis gets the copy of a book and is able, with amazing technology, to decipher it. His intentions are to kidnap a fairy, but will he succeed or fail miserably?

This book was excellent and I enjoyed its many twists and turns and variety, of shall we say colourful characters. I would recommend it to anyone above ten, simply because there is a slight use of bad language and also, because the ideas are very slightly complex for children of younger than ten. Anyone who has read The Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden will enjoy this book immensely.

My final choice today is Harry and the Wrinklies by Alan Temperley. I know this may sound very immature and silly to you, the readers, but this book was glorious. The main character is a small boy called Eugene Augustus Harold Montgomery Barton, I think. But, he prefers to be called Harry. Harry lives in London in his Parents’ mansion, however, his parents are never there. Instead, to look after Harry, they have employed a horrible woman called Lavina Mcscrew, whom Harry has nicknamed Gestapo Lil.

In a tragic accident, Harry’s parents are killed and Harry is packed off to live with two great aunts in the country. One, Aunt Bridget, is tall with hair tied back in a bun, whilst the other, Auntie Florrie, has wild blonde hair, wears baby pink lipstick and drives cars at over a hundred miles an hour. On his first evening, Harry hears something that will change his time at Lagg Hall forever. Perhaps, Harry’s aunts and their pensioner friends aren’t quite what they seem? This book was hilarious and it swallowed me up into a sort of bubble of my own, where nothing and no one could penetrate it. I would recommend it to adults and children alike; however, you do have to watch for bad language at times.

I would also like to hear from you what Teenage Fiction or young adult books you’d like to see me review in the near future?

Bookboy.

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Filed under Bookboy Reads, Puffin Books, Scholastic Books