Saturday, September 08, 2012

Gentle War Horse Proves That Love Conquers All—Even the Most Painful Wounds of War

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Joey, a gentle red bay colt, is purchased by Mr. Narracott, he gets his first taste of the cruelty some men—particularly drunk men—like to unleash on weaker beings.  The young horse misses his mother, fears his new owner and wonders what is to become of him in the hands of the angry Mr. Narracott.  Then, Joey meets Albert, his owner's 13-year-old son.  Albert is as kind as his father is mean, as soft-spoken as his father is harsh, as determined to love Joey as his father is to break him.  Although Joey still shies away when Mr. Narracott comes for him, he knows that as long as he has Albert, everything will be okay.

Then, World War I bears down on England.  Albert is too young to enlist, but Joey is just what the Army's looking for—he's a strong and healthy recruit.  Mr. Narracott needs the money the Army's offering him, so he sells Albert's horse to them.  After working on the farm, Joey knows all about sore muscles, but the exhaustion he feels on the battlefield is something else altogether.  Along with the other war horses, he has learned to charge the enemy, transport wounded soldiers and carry heavy artillery.  With gunshots roaring in his ears, he must do his duties bravely, even as his friends—both equestrian and human—fall all around him.  Joey is determined to survive the war for one reason: Albert.  He must see his friend again, no matter how impossible that reunion might seem. 

I'm not much for books with animal narrators, but War Horse by Michael Morpurgo has received so much praise that I knew I had to read it.  While I'm not sure the book quite deserves all the attention it's been given, I did enjoy the story.  It's a quick, heartwarming read about an animal's love for his owner, a boy who's also been his kind and loving friend.  With a true and heartbreaking look at how war destroys—and sometimes solidifies—such bonds, War Horse is an uplifting tale that proves love conquers all, even the most painful wounds of war. 

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie (and it is!), it would be rated:  PG for mild language, violence (including animal cruelty) and scenes of peril    

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of War Horse from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!

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