Thursday, 28 February 2013

Book 6 of 2013: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

Back last year I saw the film of War Horse and it didn't take me long to realise that I needed to read the book. As luck would have it, The Book People advertised it at the time that I was looking for one or two extra books to give me free delivery, so I added it to my basket. It arrived, I promptly put it on my bookcase and then never actually got around to reading it.

Like the film, the book of War Horse tells the story of Joey the horse who is purchased by a farmer and adopted by the farmer's son, Albert, before being sold to the army to go away to help in the war. Although he starts on the British side, his story sees him join the Germans as well as a French family, and it's all told through his eyes.

I really enjoyed this story. I wondered how it would work, knowing that it was written to be told from Joey's point of view. It was done very simply with Joey acting as the narrator and talking quite simply about what was going on around him. I've read a couple of Michael Morpurgo's stories and I think that this simple writing is characteristic of him; it succeeds in drawing you in and I was able to read it in about two sittings.

I have to admit that it made me tear up at the end. Animal stories are one of those things that really get to me; the though of an animal suffering or being scared is enough to do it for me. Even though I knew what was going to happen because I'd seen the film, there were several differences at earlier points in the story, so I wasn't entirely sure how it was going to end.

It was clever the way that it showed the war from the perspective of the British, Germans and French. By using Joey as the narrator, there wasn't really any taking of sides; it was just presented as 'this is how it was here and that's how it was there'. I think that would make this good to study in the primary school classroom; it's written using language that older kids would understand and I think it would be a good way to open discussion into what life would have been like for the men on the front line.

I was also pleased that Joey doesn't actually speak at all, not even to other horses. Although he narrates the whole story, and relates discussions that take place between human characters. It's suggested that the horses can communicate with each other but they don't actually have any moments in the book where they speak directly. It's something I was glad of because it makes it feel more real somehow, as real as a story narrated by a horse can be anyway.

There were a few little bits that I didn't like; towards the end a character is killed who was only introduced to us a few pages earlier. It's obvious that this affects the other characters, but we didn't really learn much about him and so it didn't really bother me as much as the loss of some of the other characters featured earlier in the book. Aside from that it was a really good book and not only am I looking forward to seeing the film again at some point, I'm going to be on the lookout for more books by Michael Morpurgo.


  1. My favourites are Kensuke's Kingdom and Cool. I read War Horse, but it made me cry!

    1. I've not read those, but I'm definitely adding some more to my list to read. There's something about the way Michael Morpurgo writes. :-)


Let me know what you think. :-)