Shadow from the shelf at HC headquarters (book.. err obtaining method number 2. Can't really call that purchasing) on Friday night and got reading on my Monday morning commute. Then finished it on my Monday evening commute! I just had to know how it was going to end... It's hard to stop reading a Morpurgo!
So here I am at lunch time blogging my review, which I think is wholly acceptable considering it's one of our titles :) I'm just WORKING right now..
Shadow is the story of a teenage boy from Afghanistan who is seeking asylum in the UK. He and his mother have lived in the country for 6 years but are suddenly being deported. But first they are being held in the Yarl's Wood detention centre, essentially a prison which holds families including young children before they are sent out of the country. Morpurgo, in his wonderfully characteristic way, took inspiration from real life in two ways with this story. Both that Yarl's Wood was a real place and that it was wrongly detaining families and children, but also the story of Shadow the dog.
During the book we hear the story of how Aman made it to the UK from his troubled home country. During their journey to escape, Aman and his mother found themselves accompanied by a foreign looking dog, which Aman names Shadow. Although they don't know it, Shadow is in fact a trained bomb sniffer dog from the English army who is missing and presumed dead by his squadron. This was inspired by the story of Sabi, a black labrador who disappeared from battle only to be found a year later, cared for by an unknown person in the desert.
This weaving together of true life elements is characteristic of Morpurgo and serves to create a story that is all the more touching. It's satisfyingly based in reality and I'm sure will be a valuable book to many children who read it and think a little more about those who seek asylum in the UK. It reminded me of the brilliant account of Enaiatollah in In the Sea There are Crocodiles in the way that the story was sad, but maintained an air of hope. I think this is incredibly important when telling stories with this much emotional pain for children. Whilst it is important to keep their eyes open to hard things that happen around them, we mustn't damage them too early on with thoughts of desperation and hopelessness.
To hear Michael talking about the book himself, click here.
Shadow by Michael Morpurgo is out now in paperback, and is long listed for the 2012 Carnegie Medal.