A couple of months ago we had the privilege of seeing War Horse while it was on national tour and stopped in Cleveland. The puppetry was amazing and the story touching. The play comes from the book War Horse by Michael Murpurgo. I was curious to know what the book might be like so I downloaded a Kindle version. When I saw it was published by Scholastic and suggested for grades 5-8, I wondered if I would enjoy it. I needn't have worried. It was as strong a story as the play version--more so.
The story is told from the first person view of the horse, Joey, who is bought and used as a farm horse even though he wasn't bred for that work. From the time he reaches the farm, he is cared for and loved by the farmer's son, Albert. At the beginning of World War 1, Joey is sold by the farmer as a war horse. Albert, too young to join up and take care of Joey, is devastated. Joey goes on to become a prisoner of war and is used by the Germans to pull ammunition wagons. He returns to the English side by luck of a coin toss and ends up in the veterinary hospital where Albert who has finally been able to enlist finds him again.
Murpurgo has used the historical significance of the war horses in WWI to tell a compelling story. Horses were enlisted in the cavalry of both the English and Germans. Cavalry attacks were still one of the preferred methods of warfare. Eventually though trench warfare became more popular with the use of machine guns and that, along with the laying of barbed wire, led to disastrous effects on horse and rider. In one cavalry attack it was said that out of 150 horses only four survived.
War horse tells the story of bravery and survival, loyalty and love. It's a great read for the road for preteens, teens and adults.