Sunday, October 23, 2011

Michael Morpurgo, WAR HORSE

A well-written middle-grade (a runner up for the Whitbread) that has captured the attention of plenty ... partly because now it's been turned into a Broadway show and a major motion picture. I found myself making comparisons with Lassie Comes Home (the desperate trek back to the one True Master) and Black Beauty (there's even a scene, as with BB and Ginger, when Joey, the War Horse, sees his friend and former harness-mate dead, having been worn to pieces by man's cruelty). In Black Beauty, Anna Sewell constructed an argument against animal cruelty (remember the bearing rein?!); here, Morpurgo has an antiwar message. I don't mean that this book is a re-do or even derivative--only that there are deep mythic structures of homecoming, longing (for love, for peace), and loss that I think tend to find their way into books about anthropomorphized animals because they are so painful; but, as in fantasy novels, we can read about them at one remove from ourselves.

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