Publisher: Dispatch same day for order received before 12 noonInternational products have separate terms, are sold from abroad and may differ from local products, including fit, age ratings, and language of product, labeling or instructions.Hardcover Book
Age Range: 10-14 Middle/Secondary
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The latest novel from Michael Morpurgo again concerns animals and war. Shadow has two inspirations: the work of sniffer dogs in detecting IEDs for the British army in Afghanistan and the plight of asylum seekers in Yarl’s Wood detention centre. From these, he has made a story about an Afghan boy and his mother fleeing the Taliban; their friendship with a stray ‘foreign’ dog that they fortuitously return to the British army on their way out of Afghanistan; and their struggle for asylum in Britain. The novel displays all Morpurgo’s trademark skills; the deceptively simple style in which every word, character and incident is made to count; a story which is both dramatic and thoughtful; and an authoritative and sympathetic voice whose commitment to fairness never wavers. All of this makes for a book which could be read by a good reader as young as nine years old and, possibly, might be read to a child even younger. However, the storyteller’s voice is pervasive. Although much of the story is the boy Aman’s, it is told through his friend Matt and Matt’s grandfather, a technique which elides cultural differences; does not give Aman his own voice; and sees his experience both in Afghanistan and Yarl’s Wood from the outside. The ending, in which Aman’s and his mother’s release are obtained in a matter of days through a newspaper article, public protest, and the intervention of a government minister, and which depends on Aman’s role in aiding the British army in Afghanistan, provides a fitting nail-biting and emotional climax, but bears little resemblance to the painstaking, drawn-out and frustrating work of organisations aiding asylum seekers. A useful non-fiction supplement to the story for the same age group would be Anthony Robinson’s ‘Refugee Diaries’ series [see Meltem’s Journey reviewed in this issue]. For a way of treating much the same story from the inside (for slightly older children), try Libby Gleeson’s Mahtab’s Story.