Born To Run by Michael Morpurgo

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Born To Run by Michael Morpurgo
Buy Born To Run from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Born To Run from Amazon.com

Genre: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A lovely Black Beauty-style story about a racing greyhound's travels through life. Lots of kind and gentle messages about how to treat animals and each other. Perfect for junior animal lovers of eight and up.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0007230570

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When Patrick sees a wriggling bag in the canal on his way to school, something compels him to jump in and retrieve it. Inside is a litter of greyhound puppies, cruelly left to drown. He falls in love with the littlest one, a beautiful fawn puppy he calls Best Mate, and after a protracted battle with his parents, he is allowed to take Best Mate home. Patrick and Best Mate become inseparable until one day the dog is stolen by a greyhound trainer, where he begins a new life as a racing champion. This life though, is not so good. The trainer is cruel and once his dogs are past their best, once they stop winning, they disappear, never to be seen again. Suzie, the trainer's step-daughter, doesn't believe for a moment that they are being sent to a happy retirement. And when she sees their true fate with her own eyes, she resolves to save Best Mate from an inevitable and gruesome fate.

Born to Run is an updated version of Black Beauty, replacing horses with dogs. It's just as heart-rending in places, but it's just as uplifting too. Morpurgo examines the different kinds of relationship man has with beast and in doing so also examines the responsibilities that we have as human beings, both towards animals and also towards each other. The book also talks about loyalty, courage and commitment. Yet it never seems worthy or preachy.

Every year, about ten thousand greyhounds retire. On average, they're just three or four years old and rarely past five. Many don't find homes and what happens to them is shrouded in mystery. Animal rights campaigners insist they are often shot - as we see in the book, rather horribly. It's typical Morpurgo that he can write about something that's so plainly wrong - greyhound racing is an industry, and the care of its dogs should be a legally required expense - without sounding hysterical or full of rage. He has a great talent for providing a morally certain authorial tone without ever sinking to the levels of those he attacks. Children can learn a lot about truth and justice from him.

It's pitched at mid to late primary and early secondary age children and is simply, but beautifully written with an economy of style still approachable for the less confident readers yet elegant enough to appeal to the more sophisticated reader. And, as Morpurgo's books always do, it tugs at the heart strings of every reader, whatever their age.

Beorn to Run follows in the honourable tradition of great children's books about animals - from Black Beauty to Charlotte's Web to Call of the Wild. Children have always loved them and they always will.

My thanks to the kind people at Harper Collins for sending the book.

If they enjoyed this, they'll fall in live with Jack London's Call of the Wild.

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