July 01, 2013

Shadow - Michael Morpurgo

Title: Shadow
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Publisher: Harper Collins (Children's Books)
Release date: 2010
Pages: 288

*Anyway, she just appeared, suddenly, from out of nowhere. She was just there, walking alongside us for a while, then running on ahead, as if she was leading us, as if she knew where she was going.*

Never has Aman needed a friend more than when a Springer Spaniel appears in the mouth of his Afghan cave. The dog becomes a constant companion, a shadow, and that's what Aman decides to call her. 
But life becomes more dangerous by the moment. Eventually, Aman and Shadow find the courage to leave. But how far can Shadow lead them? And in this terrifying new world, is anywhere really safe?

Shadow is based on real facts. It is a great book for children, as it is light but examines serious themes: the war in Afghanistan and the lives of the refugees who have been able to flee. The cover is perfect: the lovely springer spaniel catches the eye but in the background we can see the dangerous world Aman lived in.
The story is told from three different points of view, which makes it interesting and unusual for children. The main storyline is about how Shadow helps Aman and his mother on their risky journey out of Afghanistan. However we discover this amazing story months after it happened, when Aman tells it to his best friend's grandfather.
So Aman tells us about the past while Matt and his grandfather describe the present. Because even if Aman and his mother managed to escape the turmoil of their war-torn country they are not safe. After six years in England they are considered as illegal refugees and they are kept in a centre, waiting to be sent back to where they come from. But Matt doesn't want to give up and with his grandfather, they prepare a plan to save Aman and his mother.
The fact that most of the story is told by young characters adds to its depth and is ideal for the audience the book is aimed at. The events are described in an innocent and simple way which probably moves young readers more than an omniscient narrator would have; the characters are easy to understand and use the words and way of speaking children are used to. Moreover, Aman and Matt could be their friends.
Despite the apparent lightness of the book, the story is moving and presents themes that are important in today's world. It is a good introduction to the war in Afghanistan and the refugees, whom children might meet in their real lives. And fortunately we have a "happy ending" - which seems a little bit unrealistic to older readers - as it is a children's book.
All children who love animals will probably enjoy this book. It is ideal for readers around 8 or 9 years old because even if it seems light, younger children will probably not fully understand the problems with the refugees. I personally started reading it as a bedtime story to an 8-year-old girl - so that normally means one chapter each night - but ended up borrowing the book the first evening and reading it to the end.


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