Paperback review: Michael Morpurgo: War Child to War Horse, by Maggie Fergusson


I began this unsure whether it was a children’s book or not. I think it is, but there’s nothing at all to prevent adults reading and enjoying it.

The story of Michael Morpurgo is as fine a yarn as any of his novels. His parents split when he was young and his father emigrated to Canada and became an actor; one evening the young Michael was watching an adaptation of Great Expectations on television with his family, including his stepfather, and was electrified to see his dad rising up from behind a gravestone as Magwitch. Michael didn’t shine academically at school but was a charismatic character who excelled at sport and became Captain of the King’s School Canterbury.

He’s been a soldier, a teacher, a farmer, creator of Farms for City Children, writer of a hundred children’s books, and Children’s Laureate. The chapters are interspersed by original stories by Morpurgo, each inspired by an episode of his life: the best is “The Saga of Ragnar Erikson”, an atmospheric tale of a deserted Norwegian village.