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Half a Man

Half a Man

Illustrated by Gemma O'Callaghan


Half a Man

About the Book

Revered author Michael Morpurgo evokes the post-war Britain of his childhood in this unflinching and deeply poignant tale of the physical and mental scars of war.

From a young age, Michael was both fascinated by and afraid of his grandfather. Grandpa’s ship was torpedoed during the Second World War, leaving him with terrible burns. Every time he came to stay, Michael was warned by his mother that he must not stare, he must not make too much noise, he must not ask Grandpa any questions about his past. As he grows older, Michael stays with his grandfather during the summer holidays and learns the story behind Grandpa’s injuries, finally getting to know the real man behind the solemn figure from his childhood. Michael can see beyond the burns, and this gives him the power to begin healing scars that have divided his family for so long.

Product Details

On sale: February 24, 2015
Age: 10 and up
Grade: Grade 5 & Up
Page count: 64 Pages
ISBN: 9780763677473
Reading level: Fountas/Pinnell: X

Author Bio

Michael Morpurgo, the British Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005 and the recipient of many awards, has written more than one hundred books, including Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew, illustrated by Peter Bailey; The Mozart Question, illustrated by Michael Foreman; and I Believe in Unicorns, illustrated by Gary Blythe. His hugely popular novel War Horse was made into both a critically acclaimed stage play and a highly successful film. Michael Morpurgo lives in Devon, England.

Gemma O’Callaghan is an illustrator and printmaker. This is her first book for children. She lives in England.


Morpurgo writes with great sensitivity and grace... Veterans are still returning from war with scars and trauma; this short story may help families heal.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Morpurgo has penned an extraordinary little book of pain and triumph. ... The text is lovingly illustrated by O’Callaghan in ink with a screen-printing technique that captures the story and the emotions brilliantly. ... With our returning wounded warriors of today, this is a timely and superb addition to all collections and not to be missed.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

At once stark and tender, this slim volume brims with the pain of loss but also, finally, with the happier ache of loving reconciliation.
—The Wall Street Journal

O’Callaghan’s saturated pen-and-ink illustrations reflect the magnitude of Morpurgo’s storytelling, creating full-page vistas and adding movement to the narrative through smaller action panels. Well suited for the more serious or contemplative reader, this is rich with positive insights into ways goodness can surpass one’s flaws.

Master storyteller Morpurgo imagines the ordeal of one of WWII’s grievously burned soldiers, narrated in a remarkably authentic voice by the man’s grandson, Michael. ... Morpurgo is at his best when dealing with ordinary people wrestling with huge emotions, and this story may bring tears to unsuspecting readers.
—Publishers Weekly

It’s a poignant tale, and O’Callaghan’s spare illustrations, rendered in ink and screen prints with primarily oranges, blacks, and shades of blue, capture well the vivid emotions of this story, while also leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination.
—Kirkus Reviews

It’s the connection between the boy and his grandfather that readers will remember...The matter-of-fact tone of the narration balances the intensity of the events in the story.
—Literacy Daily