Book – Dear Olly
Author – Michael Morpurgo
Year – 2000
Genre – Children’s
Pages – 128
I mentioned in my last entry how I work in a primary school. One of the boons of working with younger children is that you are surrounded by their books, and once you become an adult, you can sometimes forget that some children’s books are truly wonderful and deserve reading even once you grow up. When I started this job, I quickly found an author I had never heard of called Michael Morpurgo. Anyone reading this who has children of a primary age is probably shaking their head in disappointment that I had never heard of him, but many more are probably in the same boat – or at least would have been until the eruption of War Horse recently. It turns out that he is one of the most prolific children’s writers around, and has written a slew of wonderful stories for kids.
This just happened to be the one that I plucked out of our box set at work. I had wanted to read War Horse, but one of our year threes had gotten there first, and I thought as the responsible adult, I should probably not kick up a fuss and let her read it (even if it will take her aaaaaaaages compared to me. S’not fair. Humph.) and so I grabbed the one next to it and gave it a shot.
Having just given such a glowing appraisal of his work, I should probably mention now that this is not the best example of what he has done before. It tells the story of Olly, and how her brother Matt decides to move to Africa to help somewhat with the orphanages he has seen on television where children’s lives have been torn apart by war, famine, and the use of landmines. Her story and Matt’s story are connected by the flight of an emigrating swallow. It is a poignant read, and introduces some of the terrible consequences of war in a way that would be palatable to junior school children – which is of course its aim – however, it feels flimsy when compared to something such as Private Peaceful. What Morpurgo does is clever, and is probably exactly right for the market he is targeting, but I try my best to judge these books by my own standards, and I was in complete honesty a little disappointed by this one. Even for younger kids, there could have been just a bit more to it in order to really make it shine. It won’t of course put me off of reading any more Morpurgo, but I may try and stick at first to some of his more well known books. When the girl in year three has finished with War Horse.