A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo
Michael only knows Papa from photographs. His father was a Spitfire pilot and only twenty-one when he was shot down over the English Channel in 1940. Growing up Michael feels different from his friends with larger families, since he just has his Maman and a couple of aunties he rarely sees.
Like most nine-year-old boys Michael would prefer not to visit his father’s aunties, Pish and Snowdrop. But Maman insists they make the journey at least once a year and there is some comfort in knowing Maman is not exactly excited to visit either. The only thing to look forward to is the aunties Jack Russell terrier, Jasper.
During one particular visit Snowdrop delivers a cryptic message about looking beyond a photograph of his father to find out who his papa really was. After Auntie Snowdrop’s death, Michael discovers not only the meaning behind her words concerning his father, but also about her life as a nurse during WWI and her secret love, Leroy. What he learns helps Michael to piece together his family history, while at the same time confront issues like racial discrimination and the consequences of having a child out of wedlock.
Looking back, Michael reflects on his heritage. Together with his granddaughter and the latest Jasper, Michael finds a way to acknowledge the unrecognized bravery of his ancestors.
This book is intended for an age range of 10-14. The character Leroy was inspired by the life of Lieutenant Walter Tull, the only black officer to serve in the British Army during WWI. Morpurgo is the author of War Horse, and many other acclaimed books for children. The thing I admire most about his work is the thought provoking, yet tender way he introduces historical events and tough subjects to young readers. His portrayals of relationships, both human and animal, are always relatable and heart-felt.
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