Sunday, 24 July 2011

Little Manfred

In the Imperial War Museum there is a wooden Dachshund. It was carved by a German prisoner of war in the 1940s. This is its story. Well almost. It's a story that captures the spirit of the true story though.
In the summer of 1966, just after England's famous footballing victory against the Germans in the World Cup Final, a young girl, her brother and their dog encounter two men on the beach. One has a story to tell about the girl's mother from when she also was a little girl during the second World War. It's a story about friendship and kindness, both heart warming and tragic that begins with two German friends going to war on the fated German battleship Bismarck. Michael Morpurgo tells a moving and nostalgic story, deeply shadowed by the conflict of nations but brightened by the hope and peaceful humanity of ordinary people. He's aided by Michael Foreman's beautiful sketches, brought to bright summer life by water colour. I'd say this would be ideal for the 8-10 reading age group but really I don't see why this can't be enjoyed by ages of any number. It certainly would be a great starting point for summer projects, perhaps investigating the untold stories of parents from when they were children. As the cover states, "The past is all around us."
There is also an afterword about the history touched on in the story and a short chapter about Michael Foreman's memories of that World Cup... and another dog, this time named Pickles, who saved the day.

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