War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

cover image

Ill. by Rae Smith, Egmont, 2013. ISBN: 9781405267960.
Highly recommended for ages 8+. At the age of six months, the young colt, Joey, is parted from his mother. She is purchased at auction as a highly sought after working farm horse while he is far more difficult to sell. His new owner is inclined to become cruel when drunk, and promises to 'break' Joey. Luckily, the horse is cared for and trained by Albert, the farmer's son. Their relationship grows until, desperate for money, the farmer agrees to sell the horse to the army, thus beginning Joey's transformation from farm horse to war horse.
In typical Morpurgo style, the author manages to immerse the reader in the world in which the tale was set. He ensures that we are invested in the lives of the main characters, constantly hoping for positive resolutions to the situations in which they find themselves.
For some reason, this is one of the few Morpurgo books I had not previously read. Perhaps the theme or front cover of the original novel had put me off. Nonetheless, having agreed to review this beautifully illustrated version, I am so grateful I have finally read the book. From the powerful and haunting images on the dust jacket and front cover, to the drawings liberally scattered throughout the book and the combination of images and twists in the text, this is as rewarding a tale as any of his other titles. I am now eagerly awaiting the opportunity to teach another war unit to a middle or upper primary task, and I plan to look at different perspectives. With the horse as the narrator, I am expecting my students to become as involved in this tale as I have been. Another masterful Morpurgo!
Jo Schenkel