Boy giant by Michael Morpurgo
Illus. by Michael Foreman. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9780008347925
(Age 10+). Highly recommended. Themes: Refugees, Gulliver's travels, Hope, Afghanistan. When Omar and his mother flee for their lives after their village has been bombed and Omar's father killed, they tramp over vast regions until they get to the sea, suffering privation, hunger and thirst. Here Omar's mother makes a heartbreaking sacrifice pushing her son onto the boat while she stays behind, promising that they will meet again in England, reminding him of the address he must repeat to himself. This address becomes a mantra to Omar, as he sits alone in the bottom of the boat, watching others as they are washed overboard, waiting for the rising water to claim him.
But he wakes on an island, surrounded by little people dressed in costumes from two hundred years before. With the few English words he knows from playing cricket, he makes connections with the Lilliputians, who call him Son of Gulliver, when they recall the stories of the giant who visited their shores generations before.
Omar learns English, helping the people with their problem with the next door island, just as his predecessor did, eventually building a boat to leave.
Packed into its 280 pages, Morpurgo gives readers a modern look at the classic Gulliver's travels. Enough of the story is told within Omar's story for readers to gain a solid grasp of the tale. Morpurgo's telling, a story within a story within a story weaves together the tale of Omar and his mother fleeing from war, the classic Gulliver's travels, Omar working with the Lilliputians to stop the war with their neighbouring island, and then leaving Lilliput.
Omar is found by a passing rower and in telling her his story while the two little people he has with him tell theirs, we have a multi-layered feast. With Foreman's wonderful illustrations and different fonts used to indicate each story teller, the book will have wide appeal. An adventure with a strong anti-war theme, the plight of all refugees is told through the tale of Omar and his mother, two people caught in a circle of violence outside their own making, as news breaks of a truck containing 39 dead refugees has been discovered in England (October 2019). Morpurgo's book resonates with meaning as the plight of refugees the world over makes front page news. The generation reading this book will gain some understanding and sympathy with those seeking refuge.