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Half a Man

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Revered author Michael Morpurgo remembers the post-war Britain of his childhood in this unflinching and deeply poignant tale of the physical and mental scars of war. From a young age, Michael was both fascinated by and afraid of his grandfather. Grandpa’s ship was torpedoed during the Second World War, leaving him with terrible burns. Every time he came to stay, Michael was Revered author Michael Morpurgo remembers the post-war Britain of his childhood in this unflinching and deeply poignant tale of the physical and mental scars of war. From a young age, Michael was both fascinated by and afraid of his grandfather. Grandpa’s ship was torpedoed during the Second World War, leaving him with terrible burns. Every time he came to stay, Michael was warned by his mother that he must not stare, he must not make too much noise, he must not ask Grandpa any questions about his past. As he grows older, Michael stays with his grandfather during the summer holidays, and as he finally learns the story behind Grandpa’s injuries, he gets to know the real man behind the solemn figure from his childhood. Michael can see beyond the burns, and this gives him the power to begin healing some of the scars that have divided his family for so long.


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Revered author Michael Morpurgo remembers the post-war Britain of his childhood in this unflinching and deeply poignant tale of the physical and mental scars of war. From a young age, Michael was both fascinated by and afraid of his grandfather. Grandpa’s ship was torpedoed during the Second World War, leaving him with terrible burns. Every time he came to stay, Michael was Revered author Michael Morpurgo remembers the post-war Britain of his childhood in this unflinching and deeply poignant tale of the physical and mental scars of war. From a young age, Michael was both fascinated by and afraid of his grandfather. Grandpa’s ship was torpedoed during the Second World War, leaving him with terrible burns. Every time he came to stay, Michael was warned by his mother that he must not stare, he must not make too much noise, he must not ask Grandpa any questions about his past. As he grows older, Michael stays with his grandfather during the summer holidays, and as he finally learns the story behind Grandpa’s injuries, he gets to know the real man behind the solemn figure from his childhood. Michael can see beyond the burns, and this gives him the power to begin healing some of the scars that have divided his family for so long.

30 review for Half a Man

  1. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    Um, my heart just shattered... <3 <3

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daphne

    Holy crap, is this a good book. I don't even have the vocabulary to describe how good this book is to me. The story about a boy and his grandfather is deeply moving, and the illustrations are beautiful and gripping throughout. What a story, what a book. Beautiful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    Beautiful short little story, and the illustrations were wonderful.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    A minimal read (20mins?) with beautiful illustrations and message that hovers much longer. I'd put it in a similar category to Backman's 'And Every morning the way home gets longer and longer'

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kati

    This was a beautiful story about a young man's experience with his grandfather. Having been warned as a toddler that his grandfather didn't like people staring, asking questions..... having been wounded a very long time before during WW2. The young man grows, gets to know his grandfather, and finally gets the story from his grandfather's own lips. The hurt that has haunted the grandfather for decades is healed by this tie with his grandson.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Miss Wilson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Even though I guessed some of the plot line (thanks Titanic), it was still very poignant and readers can't help but like grandpa and his solitary lifestyle! I admit the letter at the end was a bit on the sentimental side... It would work nicely alongside'Face', a play about a teen dealing with post car crash facial disfigurement, as the characters have to cope with similar hurdles. I absolutely love Gemma O'Callaghan's illustrations, especially grandpa at the door as well as his mantlepiece.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sharon George

    A very heartwarming tale written by a master storyteller. I greatly enjoyed this short, poignant and heartwarming story. Thank you, Rachel, for sending me this book. So often, the least amount of pages van tell the greatest stories. The illustrations were delightful as well.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Such an important and moving story! Anyone with a wounded veteran in their family should read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A beautiful, touching story superbly told.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    We do our best to teach children not to gawk when in the presence of, well, anyone even a little out of the norm. It's hard to recognize that they are naturally curious, and not necessarily being rude or frightened. But there is a line between ignoring/avoiding and acknowledging. People want to be seen, acknowledged, as a part of the human race. Half a Man explores the relationship between a grandfather, disfigured in WWII, and his grandson (the narrator). Morpurgo is a true storyteller, achievi We do our best to teach children not to gawk when in the presence of, well, anyone even a little out of the norm. It's hard to recognize that they are naturally curious, and not necessarily being rude or frightened. But there is a line between ignoring/avoiding and acknowledging. People want to be seen, acknowledged, as a part of the human race. Half a Man explores the relationship between a grandfather, disfigured in WWII, and his grandson (the narrator). Morpurgo is a true storyteller, achieving simplicity in his writing, but all the while addressing complex issues. Realistic, touching, not at all over the top, not underdone. A must read for anyone, old or young, tackling a change in a loved one. This is book is what I would have hope for in the much more popular, but not exactly realistic, Wonder.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    This is a beautifully written book that is deeply touching. Every summer Michael goes to visit his grandfather who had been horribly disfigured during WWII. Michael does what many others cannot including his own mother, he looks at his grandfather seeing beyond his scars, and wonders what happened to him. And one day his grandfather tells him the whole story. This is a book about family and about acceptance. The illustrations lend to the telling as does the short text moving the story quickly al This is a beautifully written book that is deeply touching. Every summer Michael goes to visit his grandfather who had been horribly disfigured during WWII. Michael does what many others cannot including his own mother, he looks at his grandfather seeing beyond his scars, and wonders what happened to him. And one day his grandfather tells him the whole story. This is a book about family and about acceptance. The illustrations lend to the telling as does the short text moving the story quickly along right to the heart of the story. Mature readers who have read and enjoyed Wonder, Gracefully Grayson or Out of My Mind and similar books dealing with acceptance would enjoy this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mortisha Cassavetes

    This is a fascinating book about post war concerns. The book follows young Michael and his feeling of interest and yet fear of his Grandfather coming to visit. Michael's Grandfather was a burn victim of war and lost some of his fingers and was burned all over his face and body. Michael wants to know more about what happened and yet is told not to stare. I don't want to go into the story more as to not spoil it but I will say that as Michael grows his relationship with his Grandfather changes. I This is a fascinating book about post war concerns. The book follows young Michael and his feeling of interest and yet fear of his Grandfather coming to visit. Michael's Grandfather was a burn victim of war and lost some of his fingers and was burned all over his face and body. Michael wants to know more about what happened and yet is told not to stare. I don't want to go into the story more as to not spoil it but I will say that as Michael grows his relationship with his Grandfather changes. I highly recommend this book to kids of all ages.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stuey Mac

    This is a good short story that can be shared in a class in just half an hour. It tells quite a unique story that is historically accurate and led us to do further research into the doctor mentioned in the book and the work he did for his community. I love Michael Morpurgo books like this - short, captivating, and informative. I will continue to look for these little gems he continues to publish!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Suzy

    A powerful short story presented in a picture book format, about a young boy coming to know his grandfather, a WW2 veteran who sustained disfiguring burns. It’s a very quick read — maybe 20 minutes — but it will stay with you. A beautiful story of love and healing that highlights one minuscule piece of history.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle

    What a beautiful book. I love the fact that the words are concise but carry a lot of meaning... The story deals with men coming back from war, and how difficult their lives may have been. It also deals with the innocence of childhood, and its potential to help healing... I also love the illustrations, that are simple and suggestive...

  16. 4 out of 5

    jamie martin

    AWESOME!!! It is my favourite book EVER!!!even though it is short and I have read a lot of books. It is a very emotional book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bec

    Michael Morpurgo really does have a way with words. An insightful short story into the life of an injured service man and how it effected his life and that of his family over 3 generations.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    this little book made me cry. love between a grandfather and grandson and a history not shared before with the family.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "He wasn't half a man." That last line killed me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mrs Evelyn M Weall

    A man of vision Michael Morpugo evokes so much with very few words. A beautiful story told with an economy of words which makes it even more moving. So very believable. Excellent!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex (not a dude) Baugh

    Young Michael had been told by his mother over and over again not to stare at his grandfather whenever he visited his family in London. But Michael couldn't help it, slyly looking at a grandfather he really doesn't know very well and wondering how his face had gotten so disfigured, how he had lost part of the fingers on one hand and all of them on the other. His mother doesn't talk about it and his grandfather doesn't talk about much of anything, let alone what happened to him. Michael's grandfat Young Michael had been told by his mother over and over again not to stare at his grandfather whenever he visited his family in London. But Michael couldn't help it, slyly looking at a grandfather he really doesn't know very well and wondering how his face had gotten so disfigured, how he had lost part of the fingers on one hand and all of them on the other. His mother doesn't talk about it and his grandfather doesn't talk about much of anything, let alone what happened to him. Michael's grandfather lives a relatively isolated life on one of the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast, making a living crabbing and lobstering. When Michael is about 12, he is sent to spend the summer with his grandpa, helping with the fishing, reading, and living a quiet life side by side without electricity, using only a generator that was shut off at night. But Michael liked it there, it was calming and comforting. One day, while out in the fishing boat, grandpa suddenly told Michael that the thing he liked about him was that he wasn't afraid to look at his face. Before long, grandpa is telling Michael about his life and how things came to be as they are. After marrying his youthful sweetheart, Annie, war broke out and grandpa joined the merchant navy. One day while crossing the Atlantic in a convoy, his ship was torpedoed several times. With their ship on fire and sinking, grandpa's friend Jim managed to get both of them off it and into the burning water. They swam to a lifeboat, and even though there was no room for either of them, grandpa was pulled into it, and Jim stayed in the water, hanging on for as long as he could. Grandpa woke up in the hospital, with a long recovery ahead of him. Annie came to visit but grandpa could tell things were different. When he finally returned to Scilly, they did have a baby girl, but things didn't improve. Grandpa started drinking, living with so much hate and anger because of the war. Eventually, Annie left, taking their daughter and never speaking to him again. Father and daughter were estranged until she was grown and sought him out. Their relationship was tentative at best, in part because he had always felt like half a man because people only half looked at him, and his own daughter always avoided looking at him. It was only Michael who wasn't afraid to see his grandpa for who he was, scars and all. This short story is told in retrospect by a now grown-up Michael. It feels almost like a chapter book, in part because it is only 64 pages, in part because there are so many illustrations, and in part because it is told so simply, but it is a deceptively complicated story and not for such young readers. It is really more for middle grade readers. The ink and screen print illustrations are done in a palette of grays, oranges, blues and yellows, and are as spare as the story is intense. Most are done from a distance to the subject, and those that are close up show no distinct features. And distance seems to be an underlying theme of the story. The story is told from the distance of time, about people who are just so distant from each other emotionally and physically. I know Michael Morpurgo is a master at telling sad stories, but I found this to be a sadder story than usual, even though the end does bring closure, at the request of Michael's grandpa, bringing together his mother and grandmother, who have been estranged for years. It really makes you sit back and think. There was so much sadness because of what the war did to Michael's grandpa and the repercussions that resulted leaving these relatives isolated, alienated, even angry with each other, when really it should have elicited kindness, compassion and love. For that reason, this is a story that will also have resonance in today's world, where we see so many veteran's coming back from war injured, disfigured and with traumatic brain injury. It begs the question: how will we treat these veterans, these men and women and their families. This book is recommended for readers age 10+ This book was borrowed from the NYPL This review was originally posted on The Children's War

  22. 4 out of 5

    Edward Ventura

    A great read but sad how a family might treat their wounded veteran and the post-traumatic stress on national heroes. The pictures are attention grabbing throughout the book. Every time Grandfather visits, the family becomes very tense. Michael is told to never stare at his severely disfigured Grandfather. Yet Michael does. “I knew that once I started looking at his forbidden face or his forbidden hands, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.” When Michael is older he has yearly trips visiting his G A great read but sad how a family might treat their wounded veteran and the post-traumatic stress on national heroes. The pictures are attention grabbing throughout the book. Every time Grandfather visits, the family becomes very tense. Michael is told to never stare at his severely disfigured Grandfather. Yet Michael does. “I knew that once I started looking at his forbidden face or his forbidden hands, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.” When Michael is older he has yearly trips visiting his Grandfather. Grandfather finally tells Michael, “You’ve always wanted to ask me, haven’t you? You wanted to know, didn’t you? How this happened, I mean.” Grandfather tells the story of how his military ship was torpedoed thus causing his burns and disfigurement. When he arrives home the effects of alcohol, depression and his disfigurement wrecks his marriage. His wife leaves him and takes their daughter. Michael’s mom never had a real relationship with her dad. The end is touching in the everlasting relationship between a boy and his Grandfather. The School Library Journals comments on how Morpurgo "has penned an extraordinary little book of pain and triumph." A book about a  young boy and his disfigured grandfather. The book begins with the "frightening times" as a young boy due to his mother telling him to never stare. When the boy begins to spend time with this grandfather during the summers, "the two gradually form a  loving and enduring bond." An outstanding choice for reluctant readers. Nolan, A. (2015, January 1). [Review of the book Half a Man by M. Morpurgo]. School Library Journal, 61(1), 82. Retrieved from NoveList Plus database. "Nightmares, unspoken questions, and unnatural silence: these are the things Michael, as a  young boy, remembers about his grandfather," is J. Smith's opening statement upon reviewing this book. Smith states the book is This story is not complicating but "emotionally dense, dealing in fear, anger, healing, and love." The reviewer from Booklist states "the pen-and-link illustrations reflect the magnitude of Morpurgo’s storytelling." Smith, J. (2015, February 15). [Review of the book Half a Man by M. Morpurgo]. Booklist, 111(12), 86. Retrieved from NoveList Plus database.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Jordan

    This is a story about a boy, Michael, and the relationship with his grandfather who has a severely disfigured face. In World War II, the grandfather’s ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic, and he was terribly burned. Eventually, he was rescued from a lifeboat but needed massive reconstructive surgery. Michael lives with his mother and father in London and, many years after the injury, his grandfather visits from time to time. For years, Michael has a haunting nightmare about his grandfather’s disf This is a story about a boy, Michael, and the relationship with his grandfather who has a severely disfigured face. In World War II, the grandfather’s ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic, and he was terribly burned. Eventually, he was rescued from a lifeboat but needed massive reconstructive surgery. Michael lives with his mother and father in London and, many years after the injury, his grandfather visits from time to time. For years, Michael has a haunting nightmare about his grandfather’s disfigured face in the days before he comes to visit. When he does arrive, they talk, but Michael finds it difficult not to stare at the severely burned places on his face and hands. He also stares at his eyes and thinks of all the suffering he has gone through. Later, when Michael is twelve years old, he begins annual trips to his grandfather’s place on the tiny island of Scilly where he lives a simple fishing life in a small cottage. Michael and his grandfather bond on the island as they go about their daily living. The grandfather eventually reveals details of his life to Michael that he has not been able to discuss with anyone. Michael learns what really happened when the torpedoes struck his grandfather’s ship and the difficult, sad days and years that followed. He learns why his grandfather felt like “half a man” and how Michael can change that. This is both a sad and heartfelt story of love and acceptance between grandson and grandfather and how they worked together to make the grandfather’s memory whole. The illustrations are a perfect compliment to the mood of the writing. The bright orange-yellow flames and dramatic silhouettes of the tragic accident and the calm muted blue-green colors of the seascapes will be enjoyed by avid and reluctant readers alike. A great quick read for any 4th - 6th grader and a good choice for teachers who need a short middle grade novel, extension or comparison for the book, Wonder, or just a plain good read aloud.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Reviewed for School Library Journal, January 2015, Starred Review. Original review found here:http://www.slj.com/2015/01/reviews/sl... Gr 3 Up: Morpurgo has penned an extraordinary little book of pain and triumph. It is a fictionalized tale but is based on the heroic work of Dr. McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon who treated severely burned soldiers during World War II. The narrator is Michael, a young boy whose grandfather is severely disfigured from burns sustained during the war. His grandf Reviewed for School Library Journal, January 2015, Starred Review. Original review found here:http://www.slj.com/2015/01/reviews/sl... Gr 3 Up: Morpurgo has penned an extraordinary little book of pain and triumph. It is a fictionalized tale but is based on the heroic work of Dr. McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon who treated severely burned soldiers during World War II. The narrator is Michael, a young boy whose grandfather is severely disfigured from burns sustained during the war. His grandfather lives a solitary and misanthropic life and only visits family during the holidays. These are tense and frightening times for the young boy, due in no small part to his mother exhorting him to never stare at his grandfather’s face, and it is always a relief when he leaves. When Michael begins spending summers with him on his remote island home, the two gradually form a loving and enduring bond. Michael now looks directly at his grandfather’s face, and this simple gesture is a balm to a soldier who had considered himself “half a man.” The text is lovingly illustrated by O’Callaghan in ink with a screen-printing technique that captures the story and the emotions brilliantly. The scenes where the grandfather describes his harrowing ordeal are made that much more potent with her haunting images. This title will resonate with a variety of readers, including children who are interested in World War II, fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder (Random, 2012), and is an outstanding choice for reluctant readers. With our returning wounded warriors of today, this is a timely and superb addition to all collections and not to be missed.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, St. Joseph, MI

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tibby (she/her)

    This was such an interesting book. It was a very simple, but very deep. It looked at World War II from the perspective of its lasting impact on veteran’s families. Michael’s grandfather was badly burned while fighting in the Pacific and both his mental trauma, particularly how it made him feel about himself, and his physical change, make his life a struggle. People are afraid of him, his wife leaves him, and he is frequently angry. His daughter was afraid of him and at first his grandson was too This was such an interesting book. It was a very simple, but very deep. It looked at World War II from the perspective of its lasting impact on veteran’s families. Michael’s grandfather was badly burned while fighting in the Pacific and both his mental trauma, particularly how it made him feel about himself, and his physical change, make his life a struggle. People are afraid of him, his wife leaves him, and he is frequently angry. His daughter was afraid of him and at first his grandson was too. But here is where the story really takes off. Michael, in visiting his grandfather, begins to look past the scars and taciturn attitude. He realizes they share a lot in common including a love of being together quietly. The grandfather becomes a friend to Michael and finds some redemption for the botched childhood of his daughter and his failed marriage. He begins to share his wounds and his regrets with Michael and his mother. I wouldn’t say life becomes grand and rosy, but the two find a deep connection and love that is the star of the story. World War II books seem popular at any level, but I would say it’s best suited to middle and high school. Even adults could enjoy it (I certainly did). There isn’t anything overly gruesome in the story, it’s just deeper than I think most young readers are going to read and I don’t think they’ll find it particularly interesting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    This is a quiet book, and one that may be better suited for adults or as a graduation gift then for middle school students, in the same way that Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go” is often given as gifts to adults. The obvious message is that, regardless of how his grandfather describes himself, he is not a “monster man” or “half a man”. It could be used to encourage conversation about what makes a man, or exploring their own family history, especially near Father's Day, Veteran’s Day or Thanksgi This is a quiet book, and one that may be better suited for adults or as a graduation gift then for middle school students, in the same way that Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go” is often given as gifts to adults. The obvious message is that, regardless of how his grandfather describes himself, he is not a “monster man” or “half a man”. It could be used to encourage conversation about what makes a man, or exploring their own family history, especially near Father's Day, Veteran’s Day or Thanksgiving. Symbolically the illustrations by Gamma O’Callaghan never show the grandfather’s current face and we only see a glimpse of what was in an old photo towards the very end of the book. It’s left up to the imagination to see the grandfather. The pictures sparsely depict the settings and invoke a reflective and melancholy mood with the primarily blue and gray drawings, accented by a specific shade of brilliant yellow and orange. The variety, from small insets to full double-page spreads, force the reader to slow down and absorb the short story and aid tremendously with the pacing of the book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    The narrator has always been both fascinated and repelled by his grandfather. The man was horribly disfigured after his merchant navy ship was torpedoed during WWII, and the family only occasionally sees the taciturn man. Michael spends part of his summers visiting his relative on the island off Sicily where he lives. Eventually he learns the story of his grandfather's past and all he owes to Jim, the man who rescued him. The author describes clearly the aftermath of what happened, his recovery The narrator has always been both fascinated and repelled by his grandfather. The man was horribly disfigured after his merchant navy ship was torpedoed during WWII, and the family only occasionally sees the taciturn man. Michael spends part of his summers visiting his relative on the island off Sicily where he lives. Eventually he learns the story of his grandfather's past and all he owes to Jim, the man who rescued him. The author describes clearly the aftermath of what happened, his recovery process, and the changes that the accident wrought in him: "No one wants a monster for a husband. No one wants half a man, and that's what I was, Michael, half a man. That's what I still am" (p. 40). Although brief, the poignant story reveals the effects of war on those back home since Annie, Michael's grandmother, is never able to deal with the changes that have occurred in her husband. It also highlights the horrors of realizing that just about everyone around you is too nervous or embarrassed to look you in the eye or look directly at your face. This is skillful storytelling sure to make readers think about life's causes and effects.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joan Enders

    Michael Morphurgo doesn’t fool around. His stories aim for the heart and hit every time. In Half a Man Michael recounts his slow growing relationship with his grandfather who was terribly disfigured and scarred while in the merchant navy during World War II. When Michael was little, his mother invited her father to family dinners and for holidays, after many years of being separated from him after her mother left. She told Michael to never look at grandfather’s face! But he did. As Michael grew Michael Morphurgo doesn’t fool around. His stories aim for the heart and hit every time. In Half a Man Michael recounts his slow growing relationship with his grandfather who was terribly disfigured and scarred while in the merchant navy during World War II. When Michael was little, his mother invited her father to family dinners and for holidays, after many years of being separated from him after her mother left. She told Michael to never look at grandfather’s face! But he did. As Michael grew older he spent summers on the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall with his grandfather. As their easy relationship grew from reading in silence to fishing, his grandfather finally shared the attack on his ship, the hospitalization, the healing, and the separation of the family. Michael said that he was closer to his grandfather than anyone in his life. After his death, Michael read a note left by his grandfather, “Thanks for looking at me like you did.” If Michael had not, his grandfather’s story would have died with him. No one else was told. Ever. Makes you want to buy a ticket to go talk with your grandparents, doesn’t it? Buy it. Give it. Cry over it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    I was really stumped on how to rate and review this book. I agree with almost all of the reviews I read on this site - both the good and the bad. First of all, I read the book as a new arrival to our children's collection at the library. I immediately went to check if this was indeed being marketed as a book for children. According to Ingram and other sources, the book is for 10 and up. One source recommended it for 8 and up. While this is a beautifully told story with gorgeous illustrations, I I was really stumped on how to rate and review this book. I agree with almost all of the reviews I read on this site - both the good and the bad. First of all, I read the book as a new arrival to our children's collection at the library. I immediately went to check if this was indeed being marketed as a book for children. According to Ingram and other sources, the book is for 10 and up. One source recommended it for 8 and up. While this is a beautifully told story with gorgeous illustrations, I think that children as young as 8 or 10 would be quite disturbed by some parts and others would be over their heads. Unfortunately, many adults will miss this powerful, moving story because it is in the children's library. The story could be used to help older children and teens understand how to relate to those with physical scars, but I don't think most children will enjoy and understand this book enough to get that much out of it. Read it for yourself.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Michael’s grandfather was on a merchant marine ship during World War II that was hit by a torpedo. In the ensuing fire, he was badly burned, lost several fingers and was many days drifting at sea before being rescued. His disfigured face was difficult to look at, even family members avoided eye contact. But Michael didn’t and as he grew older, he and his grandfather developed a relationship and Michael learns that his grandfather is much more than half a man. Simply illustrated, this story is po Michael’s grandfather was on a merchant marine ship during World War II that was hit by a torpedo. In the ensuing fire, he was badly burned, lost several fingers and was many days drifting at sea before being rescued. His disfigured face was difficult to look at, even family members avoided eye contact. But Michael didn’t and as he grew older, he and his grandfather developed a relationship and Michael learns that his grandfather is much more than half a man. Simply illustrated, this story is poignant, moving and beautiful. The length and look seems like a children’s story, but the content may be disturbing to children (alcoholism, disfigurement, abandonment). Unfortunately the presentation isn’t appealing to the older reader. Not sure where this fits. Morpurgo, author of War Horse, is a popular author, and his name may be enough to sell this book. Hard to recommend though for a school library.

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