July 01, 2013

War Horse - Michael Morpurgo

Title: War Horse
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Publisher: Egmont
Release date: 1982
Pages: 288

*Some in the village, only a very few now and fewer as each year goes by, remember Joey as he was. His story is written so that neither he nor those who knew him, nor the way they lived and died in, will be forgotten.*

'I saw the grey soldiers ahead of us raise their rifles and heard the death rattle of a machine gun...' A powerful story if the truest of friendships in the worst of wars from the award-winning master storytelle Michael Morpurgo.

Love, friendship and courage... These three words describe perfectly War horse, the moving story of the horse Joey and his companion Albert through the Great War.
Michael Morpurgo takes the reader to the English countryside, where young colt Joey is sold to a farmer. The farmer's son Albert finds in love with the horse straightaway and as time goes by, their relationship evolves into a true friendship. Although Joey is not a farm horse he successfully learns how to pull a cart and plough to earn his keep and spends all the rest of his time with Albert.
However as war is declared, their destiny is about to change forever. Joey is sold to the army and has to go to the front while Albert, too young to join in as a soldier, stays on the farm. Before they part, he promises his horse that they will meet again.
The story goes on, describing the horror of a war where humans and animals are used like machines and do not understand what they are fighting for anymore. We discover the front line, the battles, the cavalry, the trenches and the artillery troops. Michael Morpurgo portrays extremely realistic scenes of the war which are ideal give children a basic knowledge of History. There is just the right level of violence to make them understand the horror and consequences of the war on people and animals.
We rapidly grow attached to that extraordinary brave horse. Joey, who is as you will have understood, the narrator and main character of the story, goes from farm horse to cavalry horse, war prisoner, ambulance horse and artillery horse. During his fight for survival he meets various people who will change his life and we discover little by little the lives of each one of them as well as the consequences the war had on them. Captain Nicholls, Emily and her grandfather, old Friedrich… so many people who fall for that heroic horse who brings a little light in their cold and dark daily life. But Joey will never forget his first and dearest friend Albert.
Michael Morpurgo skilfully mixes scenes of friendship and love with moments of fear and horror. This moving story is perfect for children who like animals and gives a good overview of the implications of World War I. Older reader might enjoy the adventure as well, especially if they want to know more about how horses were used during that war.

War Horse has been adapted into a film. 
See my film review and comparison with the book here.

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