Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo

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Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Lovely story taking place on the Scilly Islands during World War I, based on the anecdote of a girl found on a grand piano floating in the sea after a famous wartime incident - no spoilers, just in case! As ever, Morpurgo covers contentious moral issues without ever coming across as pompous or didactic.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0007339631

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Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2014

Shortlisted for the Children's Book Award 2016: Books for Older Readers

It's May, 1915. World War I is underway and the Scillionians have already seen losses. Like the rest of Britain, they are beginning to realise that this war won't be over any time soon.

When Alfie and his father are out fishing one day, they hear a child's cries. On one of the archipelago's uninhabited islands, they find a half-starved little girl, abandoned and in a terrible state. She can only speak one word: Lucy. Who is this foundling? Is she a ghost? A mermaid? Or, more worryingly, could she be a German spy? The name Wilhelm is on the label of her blanket, after all. And why does she gaze at the moon with such longing in her eyes?

Alfie's family take Lucy in and care for her as lovingly as they know how. But, as the war rages on, Alfie and Lucy find themselves the objects of fear and suspicion...

Oh, this is a lovely, lovely story and Morpurgo takes his time unravelling Lucy's story. It's about kindness. It's about fear of the other. It's about grief and trauma. And it's rich and sticky with Morpurgo's trademark understanding. He is never afraid to describe the darker side of life - particularly the darker side of war - but he never leaves his young readers without a sense of hope and a firm grip on a moral compass. Listen to the Moon is also full of lyrical descriptions of landscape and island life, which make it a real pleasure to read.

There's a wealth of fascinating detail, too. From adverts taken out by the German government in America warning that passenger ships could be military targets to the story of the Scillionian's rescue of survivors from the SS Schiller and the remains of the Pest House on one of the Scillies' uninhabited islands, readers will come out of the story with a rich understanding of history. This is a story based on an infamous incident during World War I, but I don't want to spoil things, so I'm not saying which one. Morpurgo often tells a story of a traumatised little boy who never spoke, until he was discovered on a visit to his wife's farm charity, chattering away to a horse. You'll find that in there, too, and it really made me smile.

At 400-and-odd pages, it's a long novel by Morpurgo's standards, but don't let it put you off. Listen to the Moon is an absorbing, involving read and it goes by far too quickly.

Highly recommended.

Crash by J A Henderson also deals with amnesia after trauma. Eleven Eleven by Paul Dowswell also shows World War I from multiple perspectives.

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Booklists.jpg Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo is in the Costa Book Awards 2014.


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