The Wreck of the Zanzibar
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This engrossing book by Michael Morpurgo has a poignant storyline about a close-knit family living on the island of Bryher in the Isles of Scilly. Although the story has a lot of sadness and hardship, it ends on a happy note. The story revolves around the lives of its main characters - Father, Mother, their children Billy and Laura and Granny May. Life on the island isn't easy, and this is repeatedly made clear throughout the book. The people of the island are constantly threatened by the forces of nature, wind and sea. A story where they are just about to give up when they are reminded that good things come to those who wait. The time stamps as chapter names provides a reader with a sense of pace throughout the book.
Morpugo is such an atmospheric and prolific author, it feels mean to not enjoy his books, which is, perhaps, part of the problem I had with this. I always think I'll love the work, and then sometimes I simply don't. Perhaps with this it's because there really isn't much to tell in this story, and perhaps in itself, that is a good change to have. There's a lot to think about, for younger readers, and a lot of putting oneself in the central character's place - imagining a kind of desolation it's hard to conjure up in an increasingly globalised world. The hardship on the island deepens when a storm rips off roofs, smashes houses and drowns the few cows on which the islanders are dependent for their milk. Hope disappears. Even Laura's parents are estranged from each other because of Billy's departure.The island of Bryher is bleak and barren. Laura's father, a harsh and taciturn man, has turned his son Billy against island life with his incessant demands. Billy wants to see the world outside. Laura just wants to crew the island gig but her father is adamant in his refusal. No girl on any of the Scilly Isles has been an oarsman on a gig and no daughter of his is going to be the first. The illustrations are gorgeous, for their part, though, and really very enjoyable as an alongside. It's a small, distant story, and it does have a very significant (and, as it transpires, titular) turtle storyline so if you happen to find those traumatic, even by mention, this might cause more strife than you were expecting.
An opportunity presents itself and Billy takes it. He leaves Bryher without saying goodbye to his family. Mother is heartbroken and retreats into her shell. The rest of the family, devastated, find their own ways of dealing with this grief. More misfortune strikes as a storm wipes out the cattle, the hens and ruins their houses. Things go from bad to worse before they start getting better towards the end. The book has some other interesting parts relating to Laura - the great aunt of Micheal who has recently passed away and in her will, has left him a diary. I love diary related stories, such a great way of capturing a person in a most intense way, it's easy to write down one's feelings and be completely honest about all the emotions being poured out and etched on to the paper. Michael Morpurgo has thrilled and delighted huge numbers of young readers since becoming a children’s author in the early 1970s," Wood said. "Action for Children’s Arts is delighted to recognise Michael’s outstanding contribution by presenting him with the J M Barrie Award 2016. His work will undoubtedly, like Peter Pan, stand the test of time, making him a truly worthy recipient of this award."Written as a diary entry - I like the idea of doing up the classroom like a set from the book and using maps to find out where the Scilly Isles are and what they look like.
A son and grandson of actors, Michael has acting in his blood and enjoys collaborating and performing live adaptations of his books at festivals, concerts and theatres. Laura Perryman’s family has always lived on the tiny island of Bryher. She lives with her twin brother, Billy, her mother and father, and her Granny May. They have four milking cows,enough to keep the entire population of the island supplied with milk, and the islanders feed themselves from the sea. It is a hard life, and Billy, fourteen years old and bored with the unending milking routine, is feeling the strain. A miracle is needed to save the island, to save granny and to save the marriage of Laura's parents.I loved the way in which Michael Morpurgo wrote the story, reading Laura's diary entries I felt that it was more personal and carried a lot more emotion. The story begins with Michael's great aunt Laura who has just passed away, who has left him her diaries for him to read. The diary is written over a year when Laura was 14 years old and documents her troubled family life that led to her twin brother running away to sea. This truly broke Laura's heart. The diary entries tells the story of this time for Laura and the events that led to Laura saving the day not just for her family but for everyone that lived on the the island of Bryher.