Half a Man

illus. by Gemma O'Callaghan. 64p. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763677473. LC 2014939339.
RedReviewStarGr 3 Up—Morpurgo has penned an extraordinary little book of pain and triumph. It is a fictionalized tale but is based on the heroic work of Dr. McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon who treated severely burned soldiers during World War II. The narrator is Michael, a young boy whose grandfather is severely disfigured from burns sustained during the war. His grandfather lives a solitary and misanthropic life and only visits family during the holidays. These are tense and frightening times for the young boy, due in no small part to his mother exhorting him to never stare at his grandfather's face, and it is always a relief when he leaves. When Michael begins spending summers with him on his remote island home, the two gradually form a loving and enduring bond. Michael now looks directly at his grandfather's face, and this simple gesture is a balm to a soldier who had considered himself "half a man." The text is lovingly illustrated by O'Callaghan in ink with a screen-printing technique that captures the story and the emotions brilliantly. The scenes where the grandfather describes his harrowing ordeal are made that much more potent with her haunting images. This title will resonate with a variety of readers, including children who are interested in World War II, fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (Random, 2012), and is an outstanding choice for reluctant readers. With our returning wounded warriors of today, this is a timely and superb addition to all collections and not to be missed.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, St. Joseph, MI
Young Michael is scared of his grandfather, who was badly burned and scarred in World War II. Summers spent together on the Isles of Scilly bring understanding, love, and the means to unite the whole family. The elegant prose illuminates the physical and emotional scars of war, while the spare illustrations in fiery oranges and muted blues give readers needed distance.

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