Earlier this year, my parents visited from the UK and brought over some books for our girls to read. Included in these books were a couple by Michael Morpurgo.
Michael Morpurgo wrote War Horse - a children's book about a horse bought to serve in World War 1 and the story of the horse's boy owner trying to find him and bring him home. This story has been made into a movie and a stage play.
But back to the above book, that both our girls and I have now read - An Elephant in the Garden.
Reading age and setting for the book
The recommended reading age for this book is 11+, but both our girls, aged 8 and 10 coped well and enjoyed the book.
One thing I spent a little time on explaining was the setting - Europe in World War 2.
For me, growing up in the UK, when I was their age, I was aware of World War 2 through school and particularly an educational programme we used to watch - "The way we used to live". Now we live in Australia, and what our girls have heard about World War 2 is very different. Each year we have ANZAC day when soldiers are remembered particularly from the first World War, but also from other wars since.
World War did not physically touch Australia in the same way as the UK, and so I think what kids learn about it is different too.
Not knowing anything about the setting I think initially put the girls off reading the book. Both read the 'blurb' on the back and then put the book back on the shelf.
So - before the girls started the book, I tried to explain to them a little of the setting - Germany at war - with cities being bombed.
I also read the book myself (it just took an evening) so I knew what topics it covered and whether it was suitable for them to read. This also allowed me to talk to them about what was happening in the book as they read. This helps me check that they are understanding what they are reading, and they also enjoy being able to share the story with someone else.
The story follows a mother and her two children in Germany. The Father has gone to fight in the war, and the mother has taken a job in the local zoo. The Elephant is brought to safety from the zoo to the family's garden, and then ultimately flees the city with them during extensive bombing. The book then follows the family on their journey to safety and the friendships that form along the way.
Both girls really enjoyed the book. I think the addition of an animal into a story for kids is always a draw-card. I found a great article here about why children love animal stories so much.
More by Michael Morpurgo
We have another 3 books by Michael Morpurgo -
The girls have already made a start on them, and I'm looking forward to reading them myself too!
Have you read any Michael Morpurgo books? Have your kids?
Have you read or seen the War Horse movie? I'd love to watch it with our girls, but am wondering if the war scenes might be a bit much for them at their age. I think the book needs to be read first to prepare them for what to expect.
Disclosure: I have not been compensated for this post at all and the opinions expressed are entirely my own. However the links go to the Book Depository where I buy my own books. I do have an affiliate account with the Book Depository and receive commission for any sales made through my site.