Only the one Michael Morpurgo, but five more books by him! (They’re short, and came boxed together, so there are still some more I haven’t read…) Every single one of these (although not necessarily all of the books of his I’ve read) has its climax with an animal or group of animals having a life-changing impact upon a child. In all but the first, this is a named and known invidual animal with whom the child or young person has an ongoing caring relationship. Still, they are distinct books, about quite different places, times and people.
301. Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo
I have read another book Morpurgo wrote about the Scilly Isles, which I believe was inspired by the research he did for this one, so I shall have to refresh my memory on that one. (It wasn’t this year.)
There are lots of animals here, but it is Grace and Daniel’s relationship with the otherwise shunned ‘Birdman’ – who only otherwise interacts with his dog, goats and hens, and the wild birds who flock to him – that is the crux of this novel. As the lone survivor of the cursed neighbouring island of Samson, the close-knit community on Bryher keep themselves and their children well away from him, but in doing so they also remove from themselves the knowledge of what went wrong there, and how to prevent it from happening to themselves.
302. Cool! by Michael Morpurgo
I’ll admit to finding the POV (point of view) the most fascinating part of this book (I guessed early on what the climax would be). Robbie, the narrator, lies in a coma in a hospital bed, often but not always hearing what is happening in his room, who is visiting and speaking to him, but although the book is illustrated, he himself cannot see – as he doesn’t open his eyes – what the new people look like, or tell how time is passing. (This is got around by the use of clippings about his progress from the local newspaper.)
303. Dear Olly by Michael Morpurgo
A tale in three parts: first that of Olly, whose big brother Matt teaches her to watch and watch over the swallows nesting in their garden, and then goes off to Rwanda to work with the orphaned children there; then of Hero, a young swallow Olly had watched from the egg, rescued from danger and sent off on his own journey to Africa; and finally that of Matt, who finds his destiny challenged in a way that will affect the rest of his life.
304. The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo
These last two have framing stories: a caring older adult tells a young boy in trouble about something much bigger and scarier that happened to them, allowing the boy to face his own trials.
Can a tamed lion ever be truly tame, or can he ever be truly wild again either? As in so many of Morpurgo’s books, some war or other is in the background, tearing families and communities apart, but rarely is that the point of the book, and it isn’t here either, although it can become a point of recontact, as well as of separation.
305. Toro! Toro! by Michael Morpurgo
Just as in the last book, a boy hand-rears and then cannot fully give back to the wild an animal meant for other things. Here, though, the bull is saved from the ring, and takes his own place in the raging war.