War Horse

by Michael Morpurgo
176 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Elanorelle

Well-written and touching story but parents should beware of some content.


The Great War caused so much death and destruction and Joey, a farm horse, witnessed it himself. After being torn away from his dearest friend and sold into the military, Joey changes hands with several people who each have a different perspective on the conflict. Throughout his journey he sees the horrors of war and the lives it takes but keeps pulling through, hoping beyond all hope he will one day reunite with his friend, Albert.


Set during the “morally grey” Great War there is no defined good side and bad side. The characters Joey meets are shown as ordinary people who want nothing more than to return to their own homes. Still, some do things against their better judgment because they have to follow orders. Joey does the best he can when he is asked, (or forced), to do something and cares deeply for those who show any kindness towards him.

Spiritual Content

A character rings bells at church. One of the characters asks Joey and his horse friend to pray to their “horse god” for his granddaughter to get well and later credits her healing to their prayers (Joey never actually talks about praying for her). Rugby is called a religion. God mentioned as having not “done too well” for a family. People pray.


Horses are overworked and several die of exhaustion. After running away, one of the horses becomes seriously injured, falls ill, and has to fight it off. A horse is treated roughly after being purchased at an auction. It is hinted that many of the horses that served in the military will be sold to butchers. One character is kicked in the leg by a horse he just threatened. There are several battles in which people on both sides are captured, injured, or killed. Nothing is described graphically, however.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Albert's father is shown drunk once and it's mentioned he gets inebriated every Tuesday.

Sexual Content


Crude or Profane Language or Content

H-ll is used a few times. God's name is misused. A horse is called names. There are insults like "crazy" or "mean".


Beginning with the author's note describing a character's painting of Joey there is a feeling like this story actually happened. The author is able to bring every character to life through the eyes of a horse which is a great feat. It's the novelization of a war hardly anyone knows about and it provides insight into the lives lost during that tragic time in history. With that said some of the content, especially the violence (non-graphic but plays a BIG part in the narrative), may make this novel more suitable for maturer readers.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 11-12

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