The Last Wolf by Michael Morpurgo

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The Last Wolf by Michael Morpurgo

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: The Last Wolf is beautifully written and illustrated. It's the kind of swashbuckling, high tension adventure story loved by children up and down the land. Furthermore, it has endless possibilities for the home educator. It's a super little book and in hardcover, it would make a special gift for any child of your acquaintance. You can't beat Michael Morpurgo when he's at his best. Bookbag awards a full five stars to this one.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: January 2002
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0385602227

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Grandpa McLeod is getting on in years. And his health could be better. He has been cooped up in his flat after a bout of pneumonia, under doctor's orders to take things more easily. And he's going stir-crazy. Encouraged by his granddaughter, Miya, he decides to become a silver surfer and research his family tree. And this is how he discovers the story of Robbie McLeod, a distant ancestor.

Robbie's story is a sad one. Orphaned as a baby, Robbie lived with his uncle, a violent, abusive man. As soon as he was old enough, he ran away from his uncle's farm and spent years on the run, stealing to feed himself. Inside, Robbie knew that the life of an itinerant petty thief was not for him, but he saw no way of extricating himself from that downward spiral. Until one day, he met a loving couple, Sean and Mary, who are unable to have children of their own. Sean and Mary took Robbie into their home and treated him as their own son. Under their kind care, Robbie flourished. But sadly, his happiness did not last. Robbie's Scotland was the Scotland of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Sean died at the battle of Culloden and Mary died at the hands of the brutal English soldiers. A fugitive once more, Robbie discovered an orphaned wolf cub and together they evaded the vicious redcoats, for at this time wolves were hunted down by the English in the same way as were the Jacobite rebels. Boy and wolf discovered a remarkable bond and together they needed to find a way to flee the country...

Gosh, you know, it's a page-turner, The Last Wolf. It is packed full of action. From Scotland to the high seas, to the United States, it's a roller coaster of a ride. A short novel for younger readers of six to nine, Michael Morpurgo's book had my son and I utterly hooked. And boy, were we rooting for Robbie and Charlie. It is a classic tale of adventure, of triumphing against the odds and The Last Wolf had us entranced from the first few pages. The friendship-born-of-adversity between Robbie and Charlie is such a strong one and such a sympathetic one that we identified with them very easily. We found ourselves right in the middle of their adventures of long ago. It was an exciting, exhilarating read. And yet we were aware, all along, of that quiet, but unmistakeable voice Morpurgo has, and we knew that at some point both boy and wolf would need closure. We so wanted that closure to be happy for both of them. Also, we wanted Grandpa McLeod to find the end of the story. We were not disappointed. Morpurgo has that happy knack - so important in a good writer of books for children - of engaging his readers into his narrative while asking serious questions and making them look for the answers. It is a great talent. Kieran and I enjoyed this story of Robbie McLeod and his wolf, Charlie, and we enjoyed trying to answer the questions it asked of us.

It really is a lovely book, The Last Wolf. It is full of the sort of swashbuckling, high adventure that children love. It has an underdog - if you'll pardon the pun - and children love tales in which an underdog wins through. It is also a touching, heart-warming story. Generally, I would recommend this type of shorter novel for six to nine year olds for library borrowing and not for buying. There are so many of them from so many prolific contemporary authors - Anne Fine, Dick King-Smith, Morpurgo himself, to name but a few - and they are read and gone so quickly, it is probably not worth the outlay to purchase. Neither are they - usually - the kinds of books a child will remember with fondness right through to adulthood. They are consumables really.

This one, though, The Last Wolf, I think you should consider buying. There are a number of reasons for this. The hardback edition is presented beautifully. The dust jacket is orange with a cut out showing Charlie, blue, and howling in the moonlight. The cover itself is simply gorgeous, bearing the full Michael Foreman illustration. It would make a lovely gift for any child who likes to read. The book is also such an impressive finished product. It has that interesting hook to and from the present day between Robbie and Charlie and Grandpa McLeod. In addition, Morpurgo has included a lengthy Author's Note that talks about the historical background to his story and about how he came to write it. There are also some strong messages about injustice and the meaning of true friendship. These things lift The Last Wolf above the standard - albeit well-written - fodder of short novels for new, young readers. My son and I enjoyed the story immensely. We were also inspired to research the internet for more stories about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Redcoats and to sit for hours making a family tree of our own. We did these things for fun, but in a class or home-educating environment, The Last Wolf clearly offers many similar opportunities for study. Therefore, I am recommending it not as a consumable, but as a keeper.

And a lovely keeper too.

If your child likes historical books, you could try our review of The Little House In The Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Buy The Last Wolf by Michael Morpurgo at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Wolf by Michael Morpurgo at


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