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A Medal for Leroy

Review

A Medal for Leroy

Michael doesn’t know much about his father, but he does know that he died in a plane crash in World War II. He remembers that his mother (or, as he calls her, his maman) was inconsolable, but tight-lipped about the details of his father’s history. Even after his father has died, Michael and his maman make regular trips to visit his father’s Auntie Pish and Auntie Snowdrop in Folkestone. His aunties seem taciturn and dreamy, respectively, but Michael learns that they may be keeping secrets about their family history. A look into his past changes Michael’s perspective forever.

In A MEDAL FOR LEROY, author Michael Morpurgo tells a moving, multi-generational story of a young boy discovering his roots. With a slim book of only 130 pages, the amount of depth with which Morpurgo imbues all of his central characters is extraordinary. From the beginning of the story, the reader is sure that she is in the hands of a master storyteller. Morpurgo also wrote WAR HORSE, a famous adult book that has been adapted into a highly successful play and film. A MEDAL FOR LEROY tackles similar themes, such as war and animals that follow different kinds of heroes through life. Instead of a horse, this time, he follows several generations of own very dear Jack Russell terrier named Jasper.

[A MEDAL FOR LEROY] combines the grand scale of World Wars with the intimate space of personal tragedy to create a book that feels much bigger than it is, in the best way possible.

A MEDAL FOR LEROY treats issues of race in a very sophisticated way. Michael’s grandmother’s family raised their eyebrows at her affection for a man who they described as different from themselves. Michael notes that his father has dark skin in his photograph, and observes that he and his father have the same tightly curled hair. His aunties are white. Only once does Morpurgo state that a character “is black,” and this is used very intentionally to address the topic of interracial relationships and children. Morpurgo manages to have a discussion about race and racism without being reductive or “other”-ing his characters based on race.

This book packs a heavy punch for such a slender volume. It is a historical fiction piece with two narrative points of view, and it leaves the reader feeling close to all of the main characters in the book, even the non-narrators. It combines the grand scale of World Wars with the intimate space of personal tragedy to create a book that feels much bigger than it is, in the best way possible.

Reviewed by Molly Horan on February 10, 2014

A Medal for Leroy
by Michael Morpurgo

  • Publication Date: January 14, 2014
  • Genres: Children's, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • ISBN-10: 1250039800
  • ISBN-13: 9781250039804