Synopses & Reviews
From the Children's Laureate of England, a stunning novel of the First World War, a boy who is on its front lines, and a childhood remembered.
"They've gone now, and I'm alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won't waste a single moment of it . . . I want tonight to be long, as long as my life . . ." For young Private Peaceful, looking back over his childhood while he is on night watch in the battlefields of the First World War, his memories are full of family life deep in the countryside: his mother, Charlie, Big Joe, and Molly -- the love of his life. Too young to be enlisted, Thomas has followed his brother to war and now, every moment he spends thinking about his life, means another moment closer to danger.
"Morpurgo's (Kensuke's Kingdom) suspenseful, ultimately tragic novel opens as 18-year-old Tommo Peaceful stays up all night 'to try to remember everything.' The author plants clues as to the narrator's sense of urgency with a framing structure: each chapter begins with Tommo's thoughts in the present, then flashes back to a memory. The novel divides into two parts: Tommo and his brother Charlie's lives before they enlist in WWI and during it. Before the war, their lives in rural England seem almost idyllic except for Tommo's 'terrible secret' (their forester father is killed by a falling tree when he pushes Tommo from its path). Their loving, closeknit family includes a retarded older brother and sweet Molly, a schoolmate whom Tommo and Charlie both love (and who winds up married to Charlie). Tommo recalls how his brother constantly looked after him, and readers observe Charlie's stalwart sense of loyalty and his refusal to bend to authority. How these qualities in Charlie manifest themselves, both before and during the war, play out dramatically yet realistically in both brothers' lives. On the frontlines in France, Tommo recounts the horrors of war: hellish conditions, friends killed and a cruel sergeant who hates Charlie. Readers will come away with a clear picture of a very different era. This is a moving depiction of a loving relationship between two brothers, their lives so linked that readers may wonder until the end whose fate lies in the balance. All in all, a powerful story about war's costs, and who pays the price. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
STARRED December 20, 2004
Cooper's (Jewish Holidays All Year 'Round) thoughtful if belabored novel centers on 12-year-old Sam, with a Jewish father and Christian mother, who feels caught in the middle-especially this holiday season. Since the family dog has pulled down the Christmas tree (or "Hanukkah bush," as his father insists they call it), presents will be arranged around the menorah, for the first time putting more emphasis on Hanukkah than Christmas. On Christmas Eve, which coincides with the first day of Hanukkah, Sam witnesses the clashing traditions of his feuding Jewish and Christian grandmothers, and he decides to ask God something that has been plaguing him: "What I want to know is, why can't people practicing different religions get along?" This question assumes greater proportions when Sam's class begins studying the Holocaust ("How could You let this happen?" he asks God), and when the boy learns they had a relative who was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. In a rather strained subplot, Sam becomes smitten with Heather, a classmate he thinks is "cute," but whose mean-spiritedness (he finally realizes) is rooted in racism. Although the narrative becomes encumbered by some rather pointed exposition and repetitious discussion, Cooper introduces a likable young protagonist and raises some searching questions about tolerance, injustice, commitment to religion and communicating with God. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Horn Book Magazine
(November 1, 2004
(Middle School, High School) An ironically named soldier, Private Thomas Peaceful, spends a sleepless night reviewing his past: "I've had nearly eighteen years of yesterdays and tomorrows, and tonight I must remember as many of them as I can." Is he on military watch? Conducting a vigil? As the hours (and chapters) tick from "five past ten" to "one minute to six" the following morning, Tommo recalls growing up in rural England at the turn of the twentieth century with his older brother, Charlie -- protector, best friend, and chief rival for the affection of their beguiling friend Molly. Exquisitely written vignettes explore bonds of brotherhood that cannot be broken by the physical and psychological horrors of the First World War. We eventually learn the reason for Tommo's sleepless night in a shattering, unexpected conclusion that is all the more effective for the stoicism with which the two brothers accept their separate but tragically entwined fates. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
(November 1, 2004
Gr 7 Up-At 15, Thomas Peaceful, like many other English soldiers in World War I, is too young to fight, but he lies about his age. Now at the front in France with his older brother Charlie he stands a lonely nighttime vigil for reasons that are not explained until the book's end, watching the minutes tick by and reflecting on his past. Using first-person narration, Morpurgo draws readers into this young man's life, relating memories that are idyllic, sobering, and poignant. Tommo thinks upon the role he played in his father's accidental death, the adventures that he shared with Charlie, his relationship with his childhood friend Molly, and the experiences that he has had since entering the war. Finally, he describes how Charlie disobeyed a direct order to stay with him after he was wounded in action, fully aware of this decision's dire consequences. While this story is not based on any one individual, Morpurgo has personalized the British tactic of executing their own soldiers "for cowardice or desertion," memorializing these men without passing judgment. While readers see the events through Tommo's eyes, the author does not lose sight of the war's effects on the teen's friends and family. Reminders come in the form of letters from home, rel
From the Children's Laureate of England comes a stunning novel about the First World War. Private Thomas Peaceful has lied about his age to enlist. As Thomas stands night watch, his memories are full of his childhood. But each moment brings him closer to something he cannot bear to think about.
About the Author
Michael Morpurgo, former Children's Laureate of Britain, is the author of War Horse, called Superb" by the New York Times Book Review, and now a major motion picture. His other prize-winning books include Kensuke's Kingdom, Private Peaceful, and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips. Michael lives in Devon, England, with his wife, Clare. Together, they founded the charity Farms for City Children, which gives children from urban areas an opportunity to spend a week working on a farm in the countryside. You can find out more about him and his books at michaelmorpurgo.org.