A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (The Trickster and the Troll), Patricia Hermes (Emma Dilemma and the Soccer Nanny), and Ruthanne Lum McCunn (Moon Pearl, Pie-Biter).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of poet W.H. Auden (1907â€“1973).
- In 1878 the first telephone book (remember those?) was issued in New Haven, CT.
- Happy birthday to The New Yorker. The first issue was published on this day in 1925. Cartoons by Roz Chast appear frequently in this notable magazine. Read The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z by Steve Martin and Roz Chast and Too Busy Marco by Roz Chast.
On February 21, 1916, the German High Command launched an offensive in Verdun, France. It was to become the longest battle of World War I, ending on December 15 of that year, claiming a million men.
No matter how many movies I watch or books I read, I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the first World War, the tactics and the loss of life. And it has remained one of our most elusive historical events to explain to children. A few years ago, British writer Michael Morpurgo, who had written a powerful antiwar book, Private Peaceful, again took up the subject of World War I this time for young readers.Â While listening to stories of the war in his village, he came upon a man who had worked with the horses of World War I. Morpurgo set out to tell that storyâ€”and chose to relate the events of the war through the eyes of a horse, Joey.
If you have seen either the recent movie War Horse or the successful stage adaptation of this book, you should still pick up Morpurgoâ€™s masterful novel. By using Joey as the narrator, he brings war into focus for young readers.
Cared for and loved by Albert, the son of a farmer, Joey moves from a half Thoroughbred colt to a good farm horse. But he gets requisitioned in the war, breaking Albertâ€™s heart.Â Then Joey goes through training with a new master and eventually into battle; when this kind soldier is killed, Joey gets shuffled around from one owner to another. He spends some time in France with a young girl and her grandfather who care for him. As part of the ambulance core, he transports the wounded.
But when his constant companion, another horse Topthorn, dies, Joey runs away, only to be trapped in No Manâ€™s Land. Once again saved, Joey and Albert are reunited on the front. And in a three-handkerchief ending, Albert and his horse head back to their English village, both of them dramatically altered by the war.
Without preaching or proselytizing, Morpurgo shows the high price of war. He develops an attractive cast of characters, although Joey remains his finest creation. A good horse story, a good war story, a loud cry for peace, War Horse belongs in any collection dedicated to the best books for children. I myself did not find it until after I saw the movie. If you are in a similar position, donâ€™t wait to pick it up. You will find yourself falling in love with a very special horse.
Hereâ€™s a passage from War Horse:
Through the long hard winters and hazy summers that followed, Albert and I grew up together. A yearling colt and a young boy have more in common than awkward gawkiness.
Whenever he was not at school in the village or at work with his father on the farm, he would lead me out over the fields and down to the flat, thistly marsh by the Torridge River. Here on the only level ground on the farm he began my training, just walking and trotting me up and down, and later on lunging me first one way and then the other. On the way back to the farm, he would allow me to follow him at my own speed, and I learned to come at his whistle, not out of obedience but because I always wanted to be with him. His whistle imitated the stuttering call of an owlâ€”it was a call I never refused and I would never forget.
Originally posted February 21, 2012. Updated for .