Rating: 5 stars
“Shadow” is Michael Morpurgo’s second book about animals, the first being “War Horse,” which was made into a movie. “Shadow” is an emotionally charged, action-packed book that would make a wonderful movie as well.
Morpurgo introduces the three main characters immediately. Grandpa, Matt, and Matt’s classmate, the Afghan refugee Aman, are the voices who tell the story. We “meet” the other characters through Matt’s point of view and he sets the scene.
Grandpa is lonely because his wife died, so when Matt visits, Grandpa wants to enjoy every moment. Matt tells his Grandpa that they are about to send his best friend, Aman, back to Afghanistan and that meanwhile he is being kept in a prison which turns out to be near Grandpa’s home.
As did the author, Grandpa finds it hard to believe that in England (where the book is set), they keep children in prison. A very interesting talking point about the book is that it was all carefully researched, from the prison in England to the caves of Afghanistan.
The story takes place in the present with Grandpa finally visiting Aman in prison and learning about the problems that have beset Aman and his mother. Grandpa shows Aman a picture of his family and his dog. That triggers strong emotions in Aman, who cryptically talks about a dog he had named Shadow, whom he also refers to as Polly.
But seeing the photo of the dog who looks so much like the dog Aman knew in Afghanistan makes Aman’s mother decide to trust Grandpa. Aman tells him the story of what happened to them from their life in a cave in Afghanistan to how they live in England and, finally, in the prison.
The two stories are beautifully interwoven and seamlessly shared in such a manner that the reader will be hard-pressed to put the book down. There is violence, cruelty, thievery, and kindness. There is also the love of a boy for his dog.
In a video on his website, Morpurgo explains why he wrote the story with three first-person narrators. He says, “three separate voices for the characters are so important because they must tell their own story.”
And they do. A wonderful story.
This book is a perfect book for use in the classroom either as a read aloud or for literature study. There are many themes to discuss, from war to dogs, from immigration to friendship.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Feiwel and Friends, for review purposes.