Review Blog

Oct 24 2012

A medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo

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Ill. by Michael Foreman. HarperCollins, 2012 ISBN 978 0 00 736358 2.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Historical fiction. War. Racism. Leroy is happy to visit his crotchety old aunt and her sister in Folkestone mainly because of their dog, Jasper, which loves him with a passion that is reciprocated. But Mum is wary of the two older women, Auntie Pish makes snide remarks that hurt and since Leroy's Dad died in the war, Mum has been struggling to bring up her son alone. On this visit the day goes much the same as it has done for nine years, but Leroy asks to see his father's medals, cared for lovingly by Aunty Snowdrop, the nicer of the two women, the one who looks after the medals, packed into the man's school pencil case and polished with affection. Leroy realises when they all go to the beach to spread a bunch of snowdrops, a ritual remembering his father, that Aunty Pish is slower than usual, her breath is coming less easily and she lags behind as they walk home. It comes as no surprise to the reader that Leroy learns later that she has died. Her gift to him is his father's photo, one always kept on the mantelpiece at Folkestone, but when the glass cracks, hidden behind the photo he finds a diary of sorts from his aunt.
This is a charming story of war and its effects on the next generation. It is a story of what happens in the war, a time of extraordinary situations and decisions, and the secrets that remain hidden for years after. It is the story of one family and the effect of the two world wars on it, of the changes which occurred not only for men but for women, as Morpurgo makes astute comments in passing about changes in attitudes towards women in war. Morpurgo writes stunningly of animals, using the little dog as a link between generations, and the historical facts upon which this story is based give the tale an extra poignancy which is hard to resist.
Fran Knight

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