Book review: A medal for Leroy – Michael Morpurgo


Blurb about the book:

Inspired by the true story of Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British army, this is a stunning new novel of identity and loss by Michael Morpurgo, biggest UK children’s author and the bestselling, award-winning writer of War Horse, now a smash West End and Broadway hit as well as an Oscar-nominated movie.

Michael doesn’t remember his father, an RAF pilot lost in the war. And his French mother, heartbroken and passionate, doesn’t like to talk about her husband. But then Auntie Snowdrop gives Michael a medal, followed by a photograph, which begin to reveal a hidden history.

A story of love and loss.

A story that will change everything – and reveal to Michael who he really is…

About the Author

Michael Morpurgo OBE is one of Britain’s best loved writers for children. He has written over 100 books and won many prizes, including the Smarties Prize, the Whitbread Award and the Blue Peter Book Award.

My review

Last year my Mum paid a visit and we visited loads of places, we saw Oliver at The Grand, went shopping, took in the culture of Leeds and saw Michael Morpurgo doing a talk at Leeds Town Hall. We were quite near the front surrounded by hoards of school children and a few adults. He had everyone captured by his storytelling and you could hear a pin drop in that massive hall.

I stumbled across his work a few years back, I had been reading loads of adult fiction and just got bored of it and felt bogged down by it. I decided to look at children’s books and somehow discovered Michael’s work. I have read quite a few and just feel completely swept up by his words, that by the time I’m finished I’m wanting to read more. It’s not just a story his telling,  he’s trying to teach kids/adults things as well. A lot of life lessons mixed in with the story that you sit there and go wow!

“My heart was pounding. I knew even asI began to read – and I have no idea how I knew-that my life would be changed forever, that after I’d read this I would never be the same person again….” (from the back cover)

This is one of Michael’s latest books and once again based on a true story. This time it’s the story of Britain’s first black army officer, Walter Tull, here is a snippet from the article below:

“Walter Tull was the first black officer ever to serve in the British Army. This was the beginning of the First World War, a time when officers were not supposed to be black. They could only be privates and NCOs. Walter Tull was in the Middlesex Regiment. Promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant in 1917, his soldiers loved him, would follow him anywhere. He was hugely respected. Mentioned on dispatches for “gallantry and coolness” while leading his soldiers on a raiding party in Italy somewhere, he was recommended for a Military Cross. But he died in March 1918 in France. Apparently a soldier couldn’t be awarded a Military Cross posthumously in those days. So he never got his medal.”

Like all of his books this is a beautifully written story, that made me gasp, made me want to grab a tissue. Yes it’s for children (this one aimed at 9-11 year olds) but Michael’s work can be quite powerful, just read Warhorse or Private Peaceful.  As mentioned in the article it’s about family secrets, about people making decisions that will change the course of everyone’s life forever. This has happened to us, my brother has an older daughter that we don’t see, mainly because my Dad didn’t want her mentioned and we were told we had to take my brother’s side whether we like it or not. I very much doubt I’ll ever see her again. It’s left a big hole in all our hearts.

This story is about Michael a small boy who lives with his Mum. He’s never had a father as he died before he was born taken by the war. there has always been an air of mystery about him. He only knows him from the photo in the frame and from what little his Mum and Aunts tell him, that is until one of his aunts dies and the past slowly unravels before his eyes.

This story has everything,  Michael being aware he is ‘different’ because he has no father and is half-French and looks different to everyone else and the challenges it brings. His first encounter with death, grief, family secrets,  how making these decisions, whether they are right or wrong can change a course of a person’s life in an instance. Family rituals, as in always having a jack russell called Jasper in the family and going to scatter snowdrops in the sea every year to remind themselves of a loved one. It is also a good insight for children into how people lived during the wars and what happened to people, although it was a different time these issues mentioned above still happen today, we all still have skeletons in the cupboard, it’s just human nature.

So if you’ve never read any of Michael Morpurgo’s work, however old you are I implore you to read this especially when the story ends with  a line like this:

 ‘From the look on his face he thought they were the best chips in the world.’

Thank you for reading



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s