Book review: Listen to the Moon, by Michael Morpurgo

Morpurgo, Michael. Listen to the Moon. Feiwel & Friends. 2015. $16.99. 352p. ISBN 978-1-250-04204-0. Ages 10-14. P7Q8

Morpurgo Listen to the MoonAt the height of World War I in 1915, a fisherman and his son, Alfie, discover a young girl near death on a deserted island west of Great Britain. Clinging to a teddy bear and a blanket with a German name, the girl does not speak, other than the word “Lucy,” which is what her adoptive family calls her. As they and a kind doctor nurture her with love and music, she begins to draw pictures, but the discovery of the German word sewn into her blanket results in the neighbors shunning all of them. Although the novel has a slow start, the adventure begins to build as Morpurgo shows the abusive treatment that Alfie receives from his teacher and the unraveling of the girl’s history describes the sinking of the RMS Lusitania after a German U-boat torpedoed the British ocean liner and her experience on a German submarine that rescues her. Family bonds are woven with fear and bigotry to show how individuals can make a difference. The author gives an excellent description of life off Cornwall during the first world war, but some of the plot is too easily taken care of, for example the rapid disappearance of violent prejudice against Germans when German soldiers from a sunken submarine are discovered off the coast. Readers will need to pay careful attention to the lack of chronology in telling the story, but the details of the setting and characters are magnificent. An author’s note at the end explains that “Lucy” was actually Merry McIntryre from a wealthy New York family; the word came from the ship.

May 2016 review by Nel Ward.

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