Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo

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Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Singing for Mrs Pettigrew is a generous, sharing book, full of wise advice and kindness. The stories are great for reading together and the articles are inspirational. Highly recommended for bookworm children between eight and twelve and for their parents too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2006
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 1406300764

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I'm very fond of Michael Morpurgo. He writes books that are gentle yet powerful, tolerant yet opinionated, full of kindness yet fully aware that world is often very much less than kind. I think he takes good care of his young readers. Singing for Mrs Pettigrew is a collection of his short stories, many of which form the basis of later novels, interspersed with essays and articles about how and why he writes and what inspires him. It's a very generous book.

Children love it when authors visit their schools. They come home wide-eyed and enthusiastic, full of chatter about the writer and the books. These visits are inspirational for them. Writing stories suddenly seems like something incredibly cool to do, and better still, something it's possible for everyone to do. It's typical of Morpurgo to see this and to try to emulate it in a book. In this spirit of sharing, my sons - aged nine and eleven - and I read Singing for Mrs Pettigrew together. We had a lovely time.

Our favourite stories were The Mozart Question, about a young boy whose parents have a terrible secret and who, in response to the tension, begins to keep a secret of his own, and The Giant's Necklace, a slightly, but only very slightly, creepy ghost story. The autobiographical parts that gave us most pause for thought were those in which Morpurgo talked about his hatred of being sent to boarding school. My younger son pointed out how much his favourite author, Roald Dahl, had also hated boarding school and we thought it was very interesting that two similarly bad childhood experiences had inspired two men to write very different kinds of books for children. I felt rather proud of my son for seeing this, and I felt rather grateful to Morpurgo for giving him the opportunity to see it.

The title story, Singing for Mrs Pettigrew, is a powerful defence of environmentalism. Half A Man and For Carlos take us into familiar anti-war Morpurgo territory. Many of the commentaries discuss family ties and community ties, something which any reader of Morpurgo's books will know is absolutely fundamental to his vision.

Oh, how I would love to see every parent sharing Singing for Mrs Pettigrew with their children. It has something to teach us all. It's encouraging and interesting, full of the kind of generosity of spirit that fills Morpurgo's books. It's also practical. It was a revelation to my older son that one could take a significant event in one's own life and use it as the kernel for a piece of fiction. The thought had never occurred to him. Now, he's beginning to realise that the best stories aren't just intellectualised; they're also felt, believed and sometimes - often - honoured. For the parents, I'll use Morpurgo's own words about stories and story-telling...

"I could see there was magic in it for them, and realised there was magic in it for me."

It's true. And we need to make the magic whenever we can.

Singing for Mrs Pettigrew would suit late primary and early secondary school age children (and their parents). Older children would find Counting Stars by David Almond more challenging but equally inspirational.

(This book was kindly sent to Bookbag by the publisher).

Buy Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Singing for Mrs Pettigrew by Michael Morpurgo at Amazon.com.


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