Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, has written a warm, wonderful piece of historical fiction. His story is inspired by the life of Lt. Walter Tull, the only black officer to serve in the British Army during World War I. Leroy is modeled after Lt. Tull in broad strokes; he grows up in a London orphanage, joins a soccer team, then volunteers for military service. Leroy's story is told by Michael who learns about it from a written account left by his great-aunt. Michael's explanation of his family's story unfolds gently as he describes his life growing up in London after World War II. He describes hearing his mother crying in her room, or his great-aunt tossing flowers into the English Channel, and we realize how deeply his father's death in the war has hurt them. This is not a book for readers who want a blood-thirsty account of battlefields; it is about family as much as it is about war and loss.
This would be a good book for classes studying World War I or II and looking for historical fiction to complement the social studies unit. It would be especially good for those readers who don't enjoy graphic descriptions of violence and gore, but prefer a character-driven story with emotional weight and self-discovery on the part of the characters. There is a video on the author's website in which he talks about why war comes up in his books so often.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on January 14, 2014.