Showing posts with label Private Peaceful. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Private Peaceful. Show all posts

Friday, 7 December 2012

Giveaway - win a copy of Michael Morpurgo's brilliant new novel

Michael Morpurgo is one of the most prolific writers around. He began writing stories as a primary schoolteacher 40 years ago and has since written more than 120 books. I remember my two children excitedly discovering The Butterfly Lion, a tale that so enthralled them that they proceeded to whizz through every other Morpurgo book they could lay their hands on.

Morpurgo, who was children’s laureate from 2003 to 2005, has the knack of writing books that catapult you into a different world. And none more so than his latest novel, A Medal for Leroy.

Partly inspired by Morpurgo’s own life and partly by the life of Walter Tull, the only black soldier to serve in the British Army during the First World War, A Medal for Leroy is a poignant story, movingly told.

As Morpurgo explains: “Walter Tull was the inspiration for Leroy in my story. This extraordinary young man had grown up in an orphanage in London, had played football for Spurs, then joined up with his pals when war began in 1914.

“He was incredibly brave in the field of battle and deserved a medal for gallantry. He never received one. He died leading his men into attack in 1918. He has no known grave. Many of the issues raised in this book spring from the life and death of this brave young man. This is why the book is dedicated to his memory.”

A Medal for Leroy, charmingly illustrated by Michael Foreman, is the story of Michael, a little boy living in London with his French mother after the Second World War.

Michael’s father died a hero before he was born, shot down in a dogfight over the Channel in 1940. But Michael has one of his medals and occasionally visits his two aged aunts, Auntie Pish and Auntie Snowdrop, to scatter snowdrops on the sea in his memory.

After Auntie Snowdrop's death, Michael discovers a writing pad tucked behind a photograph of his father. It's filled with his aunt's writing and contains family secrets that have remained hidden for years. “I knew even as I began to read – and I have no idea how I knew – that my life would be changed forever," says Michael, "that after I’d read this I would never be the same person again.”

Morpurgo has had a stupendous year. First the movies of War Horse and Private Peaceful (weepies, both of them) hit the big screen, and now he has written this fine new novel. Suitable for children aged nine and over, it is compelling and thought-provoking. Vintage Morpurgo.

Thanks to HarperCollins, I have two copies of A Medal for Leroy to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment about your favourite children's book at the end of this post.

This giveaway is open to readers with UK postal addresses only.

Plus, as a special Christmas promotion, you can buy A Medal for Leroy and get Little Manfred free.  Find out more here.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Two films for half term - Madagascar 3 and Private Peaceful

For the first time in 18 years I haven’t got a clue when half term actually is. It might be this week but then again it could be next. In the past I’d be rushing out to get Halloween pumpkins and planning what to do on Bonfire Night – but now my son and daughter are at university I don’t have to do any of it (sob).

But ironically I was invited to two film previews recently – both for new children’s movies being released in time for half term. Actually, when I pitched up for the screening of Madagascar 3 - Europe's Most Wanted at the Empire in London's Leicester Square I nearly made my excuses and left. The vast auditorium was filled with harassed looking parents and small children clutching balloons, Chupa Chip lollies (they were being handed out for free) and geeky 3D glasses. I felt a bit like a spare part.

But I stayed – and I’m so glad I did. With its stunning animation and madcap characters, Madagascar 3 is 80 minutes well spent. Children will love the crazy tale of New York zoo escapees Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), while adults will chuckle at the in-jokes and witty script.

The plot is silly to say the least, but it doesn’t matter a jot. I hadn’t seen the two earlier Madagascar films but the latest instalment takes up where the previous ones left off. The four animals are living in Africa but they’re bored stiff with their natural habitat and are desperate to head home to the hustle and bustle of New York. So that’s what they do, except along the way there’s a manic car chase through Monte Carlo, a train ride across Europe (where they join a travelling circus) and a dazzling circus performance in London. Best of all, it’s got the best movie villain I’ve seen in a long time –  the utterly terrifying Chantel Du Bois (voiced by Frances McDormand), a French cop who looks like Cruella de Vil and sounds like something out of  ‘Allo, ‘Allo.

But if your children are older and you’re after a more serious movie, then Private Peaceful is just the thing.

Private Peaceful is apparently Michael Morpurgo’s favourite of all the books he has written. It's a shame that the film adaptation has been released so soon after War Horse because it covers – with far less fanfare - much of the same First World War territory. In many ways it reminded me of the Sunday afternoon dramas I used to watch on TV as a child. The story of two brothers who fall in love with the same girl and then both sign up, a decision that ultimately leads to tragedy, it’s moving, thought-provoking and beautifully done. Oh, and any film that stars the brilliant Maxine Peake (as the boys' mum) is fine by me.

Madagascar 3, certificate PG, and Private Peaceful, certificate 12A, are showing in UK cinemas now.

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