Morpurgo, Michael. An Eagle in the Snow. Feiwel and Friends, 2017. 133p. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-250-10515-8. Ages 8-12. P8Q10
In this simple story within a story set in 1940, Barney and his mother are fleeing war-torn Coventry where German bombs have taken out their home when German fighter planes force their train to stay in a tunnel for a long time. Barney’s father is fighting in Africa, and the boy tries to get his toy train from the house’s rubble before an air raid warden stops him. Terrified by the dark, Barney is soothed by a stranger sitting with them who tells his tale of his friend, Billy Byron, and how they both grew up on Mulberry Street where Barney had lived. Then the man tells them about Billy’s adventures during the first world war that led him to almost kill Adolf Hitler while he was a mere soldier. The man’s story is based on Henry Tandey, a British soldier who may have had Hitler in his sights, decided not to kill him, and later regretted the decision.
Verdict: The adventure of the man’s story blends with the loving nature of the family relationships, and the reality of war’s terror and devastation is brought home to the reader, for example when Barney’s father finds his beloved horse dead after the bombings. The book would be an excellent read-aloud as a basis for a discussion about the ethics of killing someone before they could go on to kill millions of people. The pencil drawings found in many of Morpurgo’s novels add to this outstanding book from an award-winning author.
March 2017 review by Nel Ward.