A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo (J Historical Fiction)

A Medal for Leroy

A Medal for Leroy   

Michael Morpurgo (Juvenile Historical Fiction)

Michael has no father, brothers, or sisters.  Just his mother, Maman, and two aunts:  Auntie Pish and Auntie Snowdrop.  It is 1940s London and right after the war.  Michael’s friends call him “Poodle” because of his frizzy hair and French ancestry.  But Michael doesn’t mind much.  In fact, he likes being different, being special.  Regarding his father, Michael knows only what his mother has told him:  his father’s name was Roy, he was a Spitfire pilot, and he was killed in the war.  But when Michael’s aunt passes away, she leaves behind a clue that will not only shed light on his past, but also finally reveal who he is.

A Medal for Leroy was inspired by the true story of Walter Tull, the first black person to serve as an officer in the British Army.  Like his fictional counterpart in this story (Michael’s grandfather, Leroy), Tull grew up in an orphanage, played soccer, served heroically in battle, and has no known grave.  Both Tull and Leroy deserved a medal for bravery, but were denied because of the color of their skin.  Morpurgo is a master storyteller (author of the spectacular novel War Horse) and provides his characters with a surprising amount of depth given that his book is only 130 pages.  He delicately tackles the ugliness of racial intolerance and inequality while showing young readers the value of having dignity in the face of disgrace and showing love without reservations or conditions.

In a world that still seems divided by so many factors, it is worth looking at the words that Michael’s aunt, who served as a nurse during the First World War, wrote to Michael: “It was while I was with those poor wounded soldiers that I first understood, Michael, that when all’s said and done, it’s what we all want and need most: to love and to be loved.”  Words lovingly passed along to a beloved nephew that would serve us all to remember today and always.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com

 

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop  

Nina George (Adult Fiction)

“As the grandmother, mother and girl said their good-byes and went on their way, Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books.  They look after people.”

From a single conversation, Monsieur Perdu can tell you what you need and what your soul lacks.  His father calls it transperception, the ability to see and hear through most people’s camouflage and detect all the things they worry and dream about.  He can transperceive just about anybody…except himself.  He spends his days operating a moored book barge called Literary Apothecary, where he prescribes books like medication to those who lack or seek confidence, hope, faith, or love.  His seemingly tranquil life is suddenly made turbulent when an unopened, twenty-year old letter, written by his ex-lover, is discovered.   Perdu suddenly finds himself on a journey to discover an author’s real identity, to seek forgiveness, and to find peace.

Like a rusty barge moored in port for a little too long, this book had a promising start, but then just sputtered and gasped along until the end of the book.  The details and descriptions that George provides of the ports along Paris and of the French countryside are vivid and meticulous; however, the story stalls mid-way through and just never seems to regain steam.  Reading this book was more like a job to finish rather than a journey to be enjoyed.  The Little Paris Bookshop was marketed as “a love letter to books”, but to readers, it feels more like a Dear John letter as we are left feeling forlorn and rather disappointed.

Rating: 3/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.penguinrandomhouse.com