Thursday, January 26, 2012

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

genre: middle grade

When I sat down to read this book to my nine year old, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was hopeful that it wouldn’t be TOO graphic for my boy, and I was also hopeful that it wouldn’t bore me. I lucked out on both accounts.

War Horse is the story of Joey, a beautiful and unique creature who becomes completely attached to a British boy named Albert. As Albert comes of age with Joey by his side, they create a wonderfully reciprocal relationship, a relationship whose course is drastically changed by the advent of The Great War.

What I particularly liked about this story is that it is told from the point of view of our horse, Joey. It’s Joey’s journey that we follow as he becomes a cog in the wheel of the great British War Machine. His experiences throughout the war in France give us as readers the unique opportunity to learn about the war from the point of view of a creature without political or cultural views. All our narrator wants is a warm place to stay, some good food to eat, and a job that he is able to do without pain – and anyone who treats him kindly is a character to be appreciated.

Rarely do we get to read about “the bad guys” and feel sympathy for them, but I loved that this book shows us that there are good and kind people on both sides of any conflict – and that war makes no judgments about who gets killed. Reading War Horse really made me think about how, horse or human, a life is a life is a life, the loss of which is always a tragedy.

Yes, there is wartime violence. Yes, there is death and mean dads and barbed wire. This book is not for people who will be upset by bad things happening to good people (note that there are a few curse words that I edited out in my read-aloud). But there are these beautiful and touching moments, where Morpurgo really captures the amazing ability of animals to be a peaceful influence and a common denominator. I was brought to tears more than once. My darling boy begged for more at the end of every single chapter, and we read the last pages with me on the floor, leaning against his bed with his head on my shoulder. When we finished, he asked me, "has this author written anything else??"

That’s a winner for me.

note: if you're interested in the content of the books I read, please go to


bermudaonion said...

Wow, that sounds amazing! I didn't realize the book is told from the horse's point of view. You've made me curious about the book.

Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

Perfect review. His new book is about an Elephant during WWII -- my daughter read it and loved it.

Serena said...

I really enjoyed this one too. I've got your review linked at War Through the Generations

Anna said...

I can't wait to read this book. My daughter and I have marked it for the WWI Reading Challenge. I'm excited about the horse as narrator, even though I don't usually read animal stories.

Tricia said...

I think my 9 year old would dig this one too. I'm planning to grab it for him at the spring book fair.

The Avid Reader said...

Ok, after reading this I now want to read War Horse AND the one about an elephant during WWII!

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