The centenary of the start of the Great War will bring forth many books about various aspects of the conflict. This tale of Ali Pasha, which is based on a true story, is on the surface a charming tale of a sailor rescuing a tortoise from the beaches at Gallipoli in 1915. But beneath the rescue is the story of sailors in action in various theatres of war, of death and wounding.
A young reporter in Lowestoft is sent to interview Henry Friston about his tortoise to find out whether Ali Pasha has woken up from his hibernation but finds a story much more worth telling when he asks him about Ali. Henry’s story is told through his own words spoken and written in his diary of the war. Michael Foreman’s beautiful watercolours render the horror of war delicately without too graphic detail, the reader follows the journeys of HMS Implacable from Belgium to Gallipoli where Henry, a stretcher bearer, rescued Ali Pasha, to Taranto, through the Suez Canal and then home.
Most stories for this age group about the Great War concentrate on the trenches and the Army fighting in France, and it is refreshing to hear of the Navy’s part in the campaigns and especially of the part it played at Gallipoli. Sitting alongside Michael Foreman’s War Game and War Boy, this makes an accessible story for eight and upwards which while it does not gloss over the slaughter, does not dwell on that aspect too long.