Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman

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Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Yet another great book from the author of War Horse – this has so many old-fashioned qualities tied to a modern urgency it will appeal to all ages.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 195 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781405281799

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There is an awkwardness about some book reviews, in that I impose restrictions about the plot, and a limit, generally a third of the way through, beyond which my story summary will not go. For books who are weak enough to not reveal themselves in even their basics, or ones I dislike, I might go further. For the better ones it's a case of less is more – I don't want to disturb the chance my reader has in finding a surprise should they become the book's reader. In this instance, the plot that I think is rich, interesting and cleverly conveyed enough to be avoided starts with the first sentence. So what I can tell you is very little indeed – I will, however, try and summarise.

It was on September 10, 1987 that Michael's life changed greatly. It had once before then, when his parents get a letter, and will definitely change at least once after then. But it is the middle change that perhaps most takes Michael out of his comfort zone – the lad keen to play football, even on the boggiest of pitches, the lad with his loving parents and with his love for Stella Artois (worry not, that's the dog) is suddenly taken and turned on his head, becoming a different child in a much different life.

Of course, the cover artwork kind of suggests what that might entail – what does the conveying and what the turning. A map before we get to the text is another strong clue. But the title is vague enough – the only vague thing about the book – and we certainly have a lot to discover, and every element is a delight. The adult will predict this and that, if not the other, but anyone and everyone will have surprises. The plotting is taut, concise, sensible, and definitely determined in order to be most page-turning.

Part of that page-turning ability is down to the classic style of the book. Of course, to the target audience, the heady days of the late 1980s is now distant history, and the letter would be tied in with commentary about the banking crisis and recession in more recent versions of the same story. But the book actually goes a lot further back than the 1980s – both for certain revelations we enjoy waiting for, and in style. The approach of the book – a boy, a boat and an adventure – is really quite Boy's Own, quite Arthur Ransome, and never as dated as that might sound.

Few things I state, however, even with my caginess, will have not been said before. This is pretty much the book as published in 1999 – I believe it has some new interview questions, sustainable paper plaudits and DVD extras as it were at the end. So in this instance, whatever my reticence, a lot of the plot and a lot of what you should explore in these pages are already out there. Included in that is the feeling of some people that this might even exceed the author's War Horse. I wouldn't like to say. But it really is a delight to discover, as if fresh or by re-reading.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

We think The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth will be enjoyed almost as much, for a very different tale of a child removed from their goodly adults.

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Buy Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman at


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