Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Plot Summary:
When Joey came home to Albert Narracot, it was destiny that these two would be friends forever. Known for his spirit and his beauty, Joey, a Thoroughbred, was bought by Albert's father, when he should have bought a cow, Joey had to be broken and trained to be a work horse. When no one thought a horse like Joey could do it, Albert and his equine companion sent out to prove everyone wrong. Although Joey had proven his worth as a work horse, the family farm that was meant for Albert was failing. In order to save Albert's future, Mr. Narracot sold Joey to the military to become a war horse. World War I had found its way to England, and Joey found himself in a place that no horse would have ever thought. Luckily, the man who bought Joey was a kind man named Captain Nichols who was just as inexperienced as Joey when it came to war. Before boarding the ship to France, Joey met another horse name Topthorn who was not only as majestic as Joey, but became his brother and best friend as they fought their way through France. What both Joey and Topthorn did not anticipate is where their journey would take them and the many wonderful people they would meet. However, the most important lesson they would learn is how war is not only senseless, but that every one on this Earth is exactly alike not matter the language they speak or where they are from.

Critical Evaluation:
War Horse not only conveys to readers the power of friendship, but just how serious and, senseless, war is for every person and entity involved. What is more touching is that this story is told through the eyes of horse who not only sees these messages, but provides readers with another perspective that touches the heart and mind. Joey, albeit a horse, is just as vulnerable and scared as his human owner, which shows that animals really just as empathetic as any other human being. Moreover, the loyalty the Joey has for his owner, caretakers, and best friend is literally a feat that most humans could not attain. Given the setting of this story, World War I, readers will come across the incident in No Man's Land where a British and German soldier actually take the time to rescue Joey, but actually have a friendly conversation expressing their own frustration with this war, which leaves them in agreement that nothing will be solved in this battle. The anti-war message is subtle, but the main story of Joey finding Albert during this struggle is remains center stage and the love will conquer all.

Information about the Author:
According to his website, Michael Morpurgo was born in 1943 where he attended school in Sussex and Canterbury. He went to London University where he majored in English and French and, after graduation, he went on to become a primary school teacher in Kent, which showed him what he wanted to do with his life: 
We had to read the children a story every day and my lot were bored by the book I was reading. I decided I had to do something and told them the kind of story I used to tell my kids - it was like a soap opera, and they focused on it. I could see there was magic in it for them, and realised there was magic in it for me (para. 1).
In 1976, Morpurgo and his wife, Clare, founded a charity called "Farms for City Children" (FFCC), which provides impoverished children with the opportunity to escape the inner city by working a full week on an actual farm in the country side: "As a teacher I realised many children had little real contact with the world around them – to them the television was real. I wanted them to experience life at first hand" (para. 3). Morpurgo has written more than 100 books for children and spends most of his time cleaning out the stables with children, milking the cows, and feeding sheep. When he isn't busy having fun, he is usually found daydreaming about his next book. 

Tween Historical Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 4-7

Books Similar to War Horse:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Positive review from Booklist (4/1/2007)
  • Positive review from New York Times Book review (2007)
  • Runner-up for the Whitbread Award (1983)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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