War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is told from the point of view of the horse, who is sold at auction to a drunken farmer and is written for a younger audience, grades 5-8.  In this coming of age story, the young boy Albert Narracott and his Red Bay Joey grow up together and the bond they create lasts through a number of obstacles.  Joey is sold and is off to war — The Great War — to work as a cavalry horse.  Like soldiers in war, Joey must learn maneuvers and be conditioned to fight, which really translates into unlearning farm work and learning how to get his rider safely through the enemy lines.  Morpurgo takes Joey and his readers on a harrowing journey through France where much of the battles take place, and like soldiers, horses were captured as prisoners of war.

“All around me, men cried and fell to the ground, and horses reared and screamed in an agony of fear and pain.  The ground erupted on either side of me, throwing horses and riders clear into the air.  The shells whined and roared overhead, and every explosion soon seemed like an earthquake to us.  But the squadron galloped on inexorably through it all toward the wire at the top of the hill, and I went with them.”  (page 59)

The anthropomorphism of Joey is stunning in this novel.  Morpurgo really understands how to create an animal character who seems more like a human being.  Joey struggles with war fatigue, fear, loss, and a whole set of other emotions, but while away from Albert, he holds onto the love and comfort of his farm life.  Along the way he is treated well and mistreated.

“I found Topthorn was always by me and would breathe his courage into me to support me.  It was a slow baptism of fire for me, but without Topthorn I think I should never have become accustomed to the guns, for the fury and the violence of the thunder as we came ever nearer to the front line seemed to sap my strength as well as my spirits.” (page 44)

What more could readers ask for in a young readers novel about WWI?  A champion horse who earns an Iron Cross and saves his riders from certain death, but who fears and loves just as the young boy he knew did, just as everyone does.  Joey is a hero in more ways than one, and his courage is something that all young readers could learn from, especially how Joey overcomes his fear of strange lands and people.  Additionally, he strives to do his best even when he doesn’t want to do what the humans have him doing and even though it is painful to go on without food and shelter.  Survival is paramount, and Joey not only looks out for himself and his riders, but he befriends and cares for other horses in the regiments.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is stunning and engages readers early on in the struggles of a young horse who is taken from his home and thrust into WWI in 1914.  There are images of war, but there is nothing too gruesome that parents should worry about young readers.  On more than one occasion, readers will be moved, and chests will be full of emotion and tears will well in their eyes as Joey relates his story.  A great way to learn about the harrows of war without delving too deeply into the politics or military strategy, while at the same time demonstrating its far reaching impacts on non-military personnel, soldiers, and horses.

This is my 1st book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 1st book for the WWI Reading Challenge.


2012 Challenges

I’m still working on finishing up my 2011 challenges, which I absolutely went overboard on.  But in the meantime, while I’m preparing for the holiday festivities and finishing up challenges and making the Best of list, I wanted to get out there with two challenges I will definitely be participating in.

Ok, yes, they are challenges I have a hand in creating, but that’s just half the fun.

First, I’ll be signing up for the Wade level (4-10 books) in the WWI Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations.  I know one of the books will be A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway since it is the book that we selected for the mid-year read-a-long.

I hope you’ll consider joining us in the new year for some reading about The Great War.

Second, I’ll be joining my own Fearless Poetry Exploration challenge by reading and reviewing books as usual.  But I also hope to make the National Poetry Month blog tour even better and bigger than it has been in the past.  Also, I hope to get some more discussion going during the Virtual Poetry Circles on Saturdays.

I hope you’ll consider joining too, since there are so many more options for those concerned about reviewing poetry books.  There are new ways to participate.

Also, as an aside, I hope you’ll get your nominations in for the Indie Lit Awards in the poetry category and the others.  You have until Dec. 31, 2011, to nominate up to 5 books published this year.

Finally, I’ll be joining the Finishing the Series Challenge over at Socrates’ Book Reviews.

I’m going to be ambitious and finish 2 series of books and I’m shooting for James Patterson’s Alex Cross series and the Sookie Stackhouse series.  For the Sookie series, these are the ones I have left to read:

  1. Dead as a Doornail (Book #5)
  2. Definitely Dead (Book #6)
  3. All Together Dead (Book #7)
  4. From Dead to Worse (Book #8)
  5. Dead and Gone (Book #9)
  6. Dead in the Family (Book #10)
  7. Dead Reckoning (Book #11)
  8. Deadlocked (Book #12) – expected publication: May 1, 2012

However, I may change my mind about what series to finish since I have started quite a few and not finished them.


***Update 1/5/12***

Since I’ll be reading more from my own books this year, I want to sign up again for the Ireland Reading Challenge.  This level has changed since last year, but I’m still sticking with the Shamrock Level, which is now 4 books.

I don’t have a planned set of reads, but I’d like to read Dubliners this year, so that’s definitely on the list of books.



I love this challenge.  I can use books from other challenges, and I’m always reading new-to-me authors.  I just adore this one, and I always seem to surpass my goal on this one.  This year, I’m still signing up for 25 authors, but I’ll be sure to meet and exceed that goal.


Which reading challenges are you joining?