For me this book is one of those love/hate ones. I loved the writing style, the people within its pages but I hated them going to war and I hated their treatment of the horses afterwards.
Let me go back to the beginning and tell you what the book is about.
It’s set in Australia and Egypt in 1914. Frank is too young to volunteer for the war effort but he really wants to go, his father has promised Frank’s mother neither of them will go to war until Frank is 18 but when he receives a white feather things change. They volunteer for the Light Horse and take their horses with them, not knowing the horses never come back.
A beautifully written book, very nicely put together. In this book Gleitzman subscribes to the show don’t tell theory and does it very nicely. We only find out our protagonist’s name when people talk to him. I got it from the Junior Fiction section of the library and Booktopia have it referenced under children and young adult. Seeing as we’re now 100 years from the time this book is set and working on a lot of commemorative events for World War I this book is very timely. I suggest parents read it with children to help them cope with the tears and emotions when the horses are put down at the end (sorry for the spoilers).
That’s the love, now to the hate.
I hate the white feather. I am disgusted at the way society shamed men into going to war by sending white feathers. War is bad enough but to make people go by telling them they’re cowards is just horrible. I believe war should be outlawed but that’s just me.
I hated the way men took their horses with them, their best friends, and only found out at the end these loyal creatures who really didn’t understand what was going on were going to be sold or shot and not brought back home. The horses were incredibly brave, putting up with travelling by boat to a different hemisphere, putting up with different weather, sand storms and the like, and then being shot at or bayoneted in battles. Their payment was not to travel home and be quarantined for six months before going home with their men but to either be sold into even more horrible situations or shot.
Going back to the love.
I loved the way Gleitzman handled each of my hates. It wasn’t the book or the writing I object to but the situations behind each one, the situations that led Gleitzman to write this book. He’s handled each one fairly openly and in a straightforward manner. I love the way he brings Frank and his fellow soldiers around to the idea that their horses won’t be repatriated, he does it with feeling and in such a way that you understand how each soldier feels…I can see children in tears at this but it just gives you an opportunity to address these issues.