There are so many brilliant Michael Morpurgo books out there that it is very hard to choose which ones to read but this one, even though it is shorter, should be on your must read list. It is not a true story, the characters are fictional but the events are true, foot and mouth disease did rear its ugly head in England 2001, farms where literally destroyed and farmers and their families were devastated, so in many regards it is a true story about what many people lived through.
The story is written though the eyes of Becky, she is the only child of farmer and her dad happened to give her a diary for Christmas of 2000 so the events of 2001 are written as her diary entries. We (my daughter and I) loved this format, it being written as a diary. We felt like the author included some lovely details that made you feel like you were actually dipping into a private diary and reading how these events affected Becky and her family. We loved the details like the way she talks about her best friend, how she talks about the differences between farmers and townies and even how she admits that she struggles with her mom. We enjoyed reading about her cousin Josh and how she named the lamb who she was hand rearing Little Josh. It really is a masterclass example of writing, of bringing the reader in, giving them enough personal detail about the characters that the reader starts to really care and relate to the characters so when foot and mouth arrives you feel like it is you that is living through it.
It is a very moving story, sad in places, truly sad when the animals are killed and then all burnt and when Becky’s father can’t cope and is hospitalised. It is sad, there is no getting around that but it also rings true, what these farmers and their families must have gone through, having there homes invaded and their farms totally destroyed I do think it could have mentally destroyed quite a few families. And then even though you feel like everything is lost Michael Morpurgo keeps you around a bit longer to show you that there is hope, hope when they bring Becky’s dad home from hospital and when they start bringing back animals to the farm. He beautifully completes the circle (masterclass right there how he does not leave the reader in despair but shows them there is hope if you just keep on going).
Yes it is a short story and that has been one of the criticisms that I have read but in all honesty it is nice to mix up shorter stories with the longer stories and even though it is shorter it is expertly crafted and the reader is taken on a journey, a journey into real events that happened.
Because it is an emotional read I would recommend it for kids aged 10 and older, and even if your kiddo is in Year 10 or 11 I still think it is worth a read because it does explain something which is apart of recent British History.