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One of a series offering classic and contemporary fiction for schools to suit a range of ages and tastes, this book explores group mentality and the treatment of people who don't conform. It tells the story of "new boy" Christopher and the feud between the school boys and the local boys.
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Michael Morpurgo is the author of more than 100 titles, including War Horse and Kensuke's Kingdom. His books have won many prizes, and he was the UK Children's Laureate from 2003-2005.From Booklist:
Gr. 6^-9. What would happen if Jesus came back as a British schoolboy? It is the 1952 autumn term at England's Redlands Prep, and Toby Jenkins is back at a school he loathes. But Toby's feelings change with the arrival of Christopher, a new student who is not like other boys. Christopher is immediately noticed by the school when he stands up to the unreasonable demands of the headmaster; then a war breaks out between the prep boy "toffs" and the village "oiks," and Christopher's role as a peacemaker has a sacred aura about it. It comes almost as no surprise to Toby when Christopher confesses that he hears voices and that those voices have told him he is Jesus incarnate. Toby asks for a sign, and signs are granted. In an amazing scene, Toby, because he feels Christopher is with him, is able to calm a bull the oiks have let into a field to harm the schoolboys. But faith is difficult to sustain, especially in the face of the powers that be, and when Christopher is expelled by a furious headmaster, Toby, to his later desolation, betrays him. Morpurgo's reach is long, but he succeeds at almost every level. God and the mystery of faith are at the center of the story, yet both are fully grounded in the affairs of adolescent boys: rivalries, sports, even first love. The book's only drawback may be its British setting, which does, at times, get in the way. However, all characters, even the adults, are fully realized, and Toby, as the reluctant disciple, mirrors the ecstasy and anguish any one of us would feel at being "chosen." This is quite an extraordinary novel. It asks the larger questions--and lets readers find their own answers. Ilene Cooper
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