A couple of years ago, I geekily set out to read a sizeable stack of Michael Morpurgo’s bestselling children’s books back-to-back. Why? I wanted to work out why this author in particular had me in tears with every single story I read. I was dying to know if he had some kind of formula, and if I could work it out. Actually, I think I did spot a few patterns, but it seems a bit cynical to go into those here!
Michael Morpurgo has a well-practised knack of tugging at his readers’ heartstrings. And I think that’s such a brilliant thing for a children’s writer to do – especially when everyone’s madly trying to get kids to fall in love with reading. Once a child’s got the Morpurgo bug, they’ll often rattle off three, four, five of his books in a row, addicted to his emotional, sentimental style. Listen to the Moon is no exception; my pupils are devouring it, and he had me blubbing more than once!
The story is inspired by the true story of the Lusitania, a passenger ship crossing the Atlantic from New York to Liverpool, which was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in 1915. 1,198 passengers and crew were drowned. Our heroine, Merry MacIntyre, is a young girl on board that ship; we follow her story as she and her mother prepare to travel to England to visit her wounded Canadian father, and as they set sail on their fateful journey.
As I lay in our cabin that night… All I could think of was that black cat running down the gangplank, and leaping out over the water on to the quayside. A black cat leaving the ship like that had to mean something, I was sure of that. But I couldn’t work our whether it meant good luck or bad luck. Time will tell, I thought, time will tell.
Merry’s account runs alongside the story of ‘Lucy’, a girl who has been washed up on an uninhabited island in the Isles of Scilly, and is saved from starvation in the nick of time by a fisherman and his son, Alfie. Lucy is soon nursed back to health, but she can’t talk – or won’t – and after their initial interest, the islanders soon become suspicious of her presence among them.
Listen to the Moon is for older children, aged 9 and up – it’s along the lines of Private Peaceful and War Horse, rather than Morpurgo’s books for younger readers. Spoiler Alert: Merry realises her mother has drowned amid harrowing scenes as the ship goes down. If you think your child might be particularly upset by this, perhaps suggest they wait a couple of years.
9-12 year olds