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National displacement is one of the most traumatic consequences of war. In Shadow, Michael Morpurgo treats this topic with a characteristic sensitivity, making his novel both topical and deeply moving.

Winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2011, Shadow follows the story of a young boy called Aman who flees war-torn Afghanistan guided by a canine companion called Shadow. Aman’s story has a vast geographical scope, taking readers from the green valleys of his native Bamiyan through Iran, Turkey and eventually France. His story is deeply harrowing – one stretch of the journey takes place in a sealed lorry container without food or water which feels “like travelling through a long dark tunnel, with no light at the end of it.” It is haunting passages like this that stay with the reader and convey Aman’s deep sense of fear.  With the help and comfort of Shadow, Aman and his mother eventually find their way to safety, outside the reach of the terrorist group that murdered Aman’s father.

Aman is joined by two other narrators in the novel – his best friend Matt and Matt’s Grandpa. Morpurgo weaves their voices together in a way that is crucial for the development of the second part of Aman’s story: now he is free from the threat of the Taliban, will he be allowed to stay? 

Morpurgo has included a postscript to the novel which provides further information about the war in Afghanistan, Yarl’s Wood immigration centre where Aman and his mother are kept as detainees and Springer Spaniel Sniffer dogs (like Shadow) used by the army. It is against this political backdrop that he has created a story which, like his best-selling novel Warhorse, champions friendship, hope and humanity.

Written by Michael Morpurgo. 
 
Lydia Mihailovic, literary editor
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