Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #42: Out of the Ashes August 9, 2010

I was looking for a fast read today, so I picked up Michael Morpurgo’s Out of the Ashes.

It’s a simple, fast read, so this review will be too.

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Out of the Ashes by Michael Morpurgo

Macmillan Children’s Books, 2001

Cover is a little deceptive; On first impression you might expect this to be about a wildfire.

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

On New Year’s Day Becky Morley begins to write her diary. By March, her world has changed forever. Foot and mouth disease breaks out on a pig farm hundreds of miles from the Morley’s Devon home, but soon the nightmare is a few fields away. Local sheep are infected and every animal is destroyed. Will the Morley’s flock be next? Will their pedigree diary herd, the sows with their piglets, and Little Josh, Becky’s hand-reared lamb, survive? Or will they be slaughtered too? The waiting and hoping is the most agonizing experience of Becky’s life.

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Strengths: As I’ve said, it’s a simple read, with just over 110 pages.  The narrative is straightforward and clearly constructed, in the voice of the 13-year-old narrator, Becky.  The simple language fits with the diary approach Morpurgo uses.  It’s a unique story about an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, which may strike some readers as archaic at first.  Such agriculturally devastating illnesses would seem to have gone the way of polio and smallpox, when in fact these dangers still exist.  It’s a excellent way of bringing the subject to present day, particularly through the use of the young narrator.  However, I still got an unreal sense of not quite being sure where in time I was.  The only solid placement in time is provided by the author, who is firm that it recounts events of 2001.  A fast, interesting read.

Potential Flaws: It’s interesting, but not particularly gripping.  In some places, the lack of detail did make me chafe a bit as I was reading, but if Morpurgo is to remain true to his young narrator, he almost HAS to withhold more of the gory details.  Of course she would be sheltered.

My Rating:

Not fabulous, not terrible.  Probably very enjoyable to younger, middle-grade readers.  A unique topic, and as simple reads go, you could do far worse.


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