A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo
|A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Michael doesn't know much about his father except that he was a Spitfire pilot in the RAF and died a hero. This is because even now, years after the war, his mother is too sad to talk about it. But then a medal and a photograph begin to reveal things to Michael about his family which he would never have imagined.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: September 2012|
|Publisher: Harper Collins|
|External links: Author's website|
Michael never knew his father and so is content to live alone with his mother. In fact, he rather enjoys feeling different and special, partly because unlike most children at school he only has one parent, but also because Maman is French and looks, to Michael at least, like Joan of Arc.
They haven't much in the way of family except two aunts (whom they privately call Aunt Pish and Aunt Snowdrop), who adopted Michael's father when he was a baby. They continue to go down to Folkestone every New Year to visit the two elderly ladies and throw snowdrops into the sea in memory of Roy, even though they have to eat rock cakes with currants as hard as nails and listen to sharp-tongued Aunt Pish criticising the way Michael is brought up. It is only after the death of one of the aunts that Michael discovers a notebook, written for him years before, which reveals secrets he never even suspected about both his father and his grandfather.
It isn't easy to write simply and honestly for younger children about war. The temptation is there to either moralise about the rights and wrongs of using violence to solve disputes, or to shock the reader into disgust by heaping up examples of horror, randomness and bloodshed. Finding a middle way is very hard. Michael Morpurgo has written several excellent books on the subject, and while his conviction about the futility of sending men abroad to die is always clear, it is never pushed in the young reader's face. His tone is calm, reflective and quiet, and his stories always portray an individual caught up in the conflict, rather than strategies and battle-plans.
Morpurgo has, on more than one occasion, used the story of a real person as a basis for his books, and that is the case here. According to the biography provided at the back of this book, Walter Tull was killed in France during World War One although, like so many others, his body was never found. He was a keen athlete, playing professional football for a while before he enlisted, and soon proved himself a capable and popular leader. What was unusual about this particular young man was the fact that he was black, and as such could not officially become an officer. Michael learns that his father, too, was black, and although this story is only loosely based on Tull's life, it is in part a tribute to him and to others who did not receive medals because of the colour of their skin. The author is careful to point out that this is no longer the case, and he mentions several British and American soldiers by name who have recently received honours for their bravery.
The book is fascinating for the insight it provides into a barely-known aspect of our military history, but more importantly it is a moving and at times heart-rending story of secrets, suffering and courage. It is beautifully written, with illustrations by Michael Foreman which are both charming and informative, and it should be in the library of every school which teaches the history of the two World Wars.
A very well-known book by Michael Morpurgo about war is Private Peaceful, which is beloved by both adults and children.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo at Amazon.com.
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