Walter Tull's Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan
|Walter Tull's Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Whether you get dragged into this book through the football route or the imminent centenaries, this is an essential tale, told very well.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 32||Date: November 2013|
|Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books|
Meet Walter Tull. There's a picture early on in this book so you can do so – a young lad, with deeply inquisitive eyes, his father and four siblings arrayed around him. When he was only nine, his father – himself child to Barbadian slaves – died, leaving him an orphan, and forced to go to a Victorian children's home in London. In his downtime there Walter became quite the handsome young sportsman, and managed to get so proficient he became the English league's first coloured outfield footballer, knocking up great appearances for Spurs and Northampton and going on intercontinental tours. Glasgow Rangers beckoned just as WWI started, and instead he signed up for the Footballers Battalion. His time at the front was also going to leave him with another distinguished first, despite the official racism of the time.
Tull's is a story that really does deserve to be told, and it deserves to be read even if you're already feeling swamped by hundred-years-of-WWI books, and even if you can't bear football. It only took one man to be the first coloured man to do this, the first to do that, but to have Tull become such a social pioneer must have been evidence of his character – he wasn't officially allowed to become an officer, but did. Later pictures of the man show him with great distinction, an unflappable stillness and engaging mien. Lord knows what he was called behind his back – the press had to leap to his defence in the light of jibes from Bristol hooligans at one match.
This is of course a book for the young reader, however much his story should be made universal. As a result Michaela Morgan has pieced it together as a scrap-book, with short, snappy diary entries and letters home to guide us through things. It's not the best format as regards picking up dates and keeping the storyline perfectly in sight, but it's the best way to present it to the primary school reader it's intended for. It's a format that lets her cover generic factors of WWI – trench life, the feted Christmastime truce with added football – and the specifics of the remarkable life with equal appeal.
Never does the writing make you feel like this is faction, for in these words Tull really comes across as a full character. It's all aided by a great deal of picture research – team sheets, relevant posters and postcard images, and a lot more. Some again is generic, but some – especially those regarding the end of the story – seem the real, private thing, and are all the more powerful for seeing. It's a shame some disappears down into the centre fold, and I did find a few splodges and ink doodles a bit too much towards making it look like the personal scrapbook it pretends to be, but generally it's spot on. It's timely due to the events of the next four years that look back a hundred, but it's also timeless in the way it brings a little-known story to vivid life in this vivid presentation.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Titanic: An Edwardian Girl's Diary 1912 by Ellen Emerson White is another riveting tale from that era of our history.
You can read more book reviews or buy Walter Tull's Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Walter Tull's Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan at Amazon.com.
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