Posts Tagged ‘YA literature’

This week I concentrated on the book for reading group.  I’m not sure who chose this one but it was a change of style:

Book 32 – War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo.  I probably knew this was told from the point of view of the horse, but I didn’t remember when I started reading and it was a bit of a shock.  It is a children’s book, but as complex a story as any young adult novel, and certainly isn’t talking down to children; however writing from an animal’s POV inevitably means it feels unsophisticated.

I don’t think I really got beyond the strangeness of that – when I was wondering how a horse was multi-lingual I knew it was affecting my perception! – but despite that I thought the story had many powerful scenes and concepts running throughout.

There were a few specific elements that I appreciated.  Firstly, that despite it being a story of war, there was no sense that one side was ‘goodies’ and one was ‘baddies’; rather, there was a focus on personalities and how life experiences and the everyday grind of life can impact on how people respond to circumstances.  Secondly, I think that the horrors of war were sensitively balanced for the intended audience – there are deaths and injuries, and there are descriptions of shelling and gunfights, but they are not gratuitous and they are not sensational.  Thirdly, despite knowing that the story for this horse is very unlikely, it is written in such a way that, theoretically, it may have been possible.  Keeping it just on the right side of possibility – whist showing the outcomes for most of the horses were far less happy – meant that the book felt very grounded.

I was really pleased that it doesn’t patronise its audience; any book written for school-age children has to tread a fine line and I really think it was successful here.  It was emotionally affecting and very engaging.

This is a story I probably would read again if I was looking for something quick to devour one evening; as I am not the intended audience I haven’t really read or discussed Morpurgo’s work before (only his writing room!) but based on this one, I may well seek him out again.

I’ve now read two books based during the war this year, for reading group; it does force me to read things I’d ignore otherwise and even when they’re not aimed at us, there’s often something of interest in them.  It’s been good for making me expand my reading horizons!


I have decided to leave Gulliver’s Travels for now; I may finish it but I’m reading it in between other things as it was slowing me down so much. Normally I don’t need more than a week to a book as I’m eager to read, but with GT I’m not that bothered. To me there’s a lesson in that; reading shouldn’t feel like a chore and if it does it’s the wrong book!

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