A wonderful children's book set in World War 2 about a young boy and a chimp on the run, and their adventures along the way.
This intriguing and exciting book is set in World War 2 England. Harry is the main character whose father was a pilot killed in the war when he was very young, so he was used to having his mother’s full attention. After the war had finished, Harry’s mother took him on a long awaited trip to the seaside at Bournemouth, where they spent a week at ‘Aunty’ Ivy’s house spending time together. However, Harry’s mother met a man in Bournemouth and spent the remainder of the week with him while Harry was looked after by Aunty Ivy. Harry’s mother married the man (Bill) who moved in with them back in their family home; also moving in his mother (Granny Wesley).Harry began to feel more and more secluded and left out of the family, which wasn’t helped by the arrival of George, Harry’s new baby brother.
Seeking comfort, Harry built a den in the bombsite next to his house, which he could easily sneak out to whenever he wished. He was returning home from school one day towards the den when he came across an old man who owned the local circus, and his chimp Ocky. This was the beginning a whole series of adventures where Harry and Ocky run away from his home desperately trying to get to Bournemouth again and to Aunty Ivy’s house. They manage to board a train halfway there before Harry injures himself and they get taken in by a group of gypsies on the way. The book ends in a dramatic conclusion when Ocky is chased off the pier at Bournemouth, Harry jumps after him and they are both rescued by Bill, who takes Ocky back to the circus, and Harry returns home to tears and hugging.
This is a truly really great book for keeping the reader in suspense, and is superbly written by Morpurgo. I imagine the presence of Ocky as a character would keep children entertained, as it is highly unusual to feature a monkey in a book set in World War 2 England. The book would be suitable for KS2 children, and would be excellent for the basis of cross curriculur work, as it can easily incorporate a number of subjects as a topic and inspires the reader to use their imagination or expand on the story.
The main theme of this book is about finding your place within your family and finding acceptance. It is well written and evokes powerful emotions in the reader. As Harry runs away from home and from people he believes have betrayed him, he slowly comes to find that he is loved and cared for and has a valued place within his family. This may be a useful platform for talking about family with children who feel that they can identify with Harry.
- Reading Age: 9-12
- Reading Aloud Age: 9-12