REVIEW: A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo

Yes this is another children’s book and yes this is by Michael Morpurgo. What can I say? I love Michael Morpurgo’s stories and I have even more sitting patiently on the To Be Read shelves. And I’m not sorry.

Along with many other of Morpurgo’s works, this edition of A Medal for Leroy is beautifully illustrated by Michael Foreman.

And it was Michael Foreman who provided the inspiration for this book when he called Morpurgo to ask him if he had ever heard the story of First World War hero Lieutenant Walter Tull (1888-1918). Morpurgo took Lt Tull’s story as the idea for this book, although this is entirely fiction, and he then dedicated it to Walter Tull.

Michael Morpurgo sets many of his books during conflict. This one tells the story of a soldier who dies in the First World War and his son who was killed in the Second World War through the eyes of his grandson who has grown up in a one parent family with his French mother and some ageing aunts on his father’s side.

It’s not just a war story though, it’s a family story that addresses the taboos of inter-racial relationships, the racism of the British and American armed forces during the First World War and how family secrets can lead to heartache.

It’s a very good book for life lessons and a cracking story because at no point does it preach to you.

As always, Michael Morpurgo brings to life believable, likeable characters and doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. One of the many things I love about his book.

At the back of the book, he talks about the inherent racism in the armed forces at the turn of the 20th century which meant that soldiers of non-European descent were aften not allowed to join-up, rarely given higher ranks when they did and were even excluded from being awarded gallantry medals, despite acts of heroism.

Books like these really ought to be on the curriculum as essential reading in schools.

Anyone who hasn’t read any Michael Morpurgo books ought to try some – yes adults, I’m talking to you. They may be aimed at a younger audience and they may be quick reads but they pack a pretty decent punch.

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