A Medal for Leroy
Michael Morpurgo, ill. Michael Foreman
London, Harper Collins, 2012, 223p
I had a bit of a sob in the staff room over this book. Morpurgo is incredible - I should have known better than to read one of his books without a box of tissues by my side.
I first found out about his new novel in the Telegraph, where he explained his inspiration behind this story (follow the link above - I highly recommending reading it). A Medal for Leroy is a tale that spans many generations, from a World War One romance, to finding peace in the present day. Michael is a young boy growing up in 1950s London, slowly learning about his family history through his Aunts revelations.
In the postscript, Morpurgo writes that everyone has some interest in the history of their families, and I think that is why this novel is so appealing - not only do people want to learn about their own family history, they also want to know about others' (the ongoing success of Who Do You Think You Are is a prime example). In this novel, Morpurgo takes inspiration from his own family's past, which he claims is full of secrets, and from the story of Walter Tull, the only black soldier to have fought in World War One.
What could have been a complex plot is instead beautiful and emotive in Morpurgo hands. He writes so fluently and clearly, that there is no confusion over who's who, when they lived, etc. The story is written from several points of view at different times - Michael's monologue is written both in the present, and in the 1950s, whilst his tale is also divided by an extract from his Aunt Martha.
Michael Morpurgo is the perfect children's author. He is simultaneously educational, challenging, and interesting. He doesn't patronise or stereotype. Every word he writes is purposefully and carefully chosen. And, as a bonus, he is outspoken in support of libraries!!