Title: Our Jacko
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Illustrator: David Gentleman
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Children’s fiction
Book format: Hardback
Description: Michael hates the scruffy tin hat from the moment his brother, Otto, tells him that it was worn by a dead soldier. To Michael, a staunch pacifist, it represents everything he despises.
Then the boys discover the diary of the helmet’s owner, their great-great-grandfather, and the untold stories within its pages. As Michael learns more about the young man whose life was cut so tragically short, he realises that the helmet is also a poignant symbol of bravery. And he decides to use it to commemorate the thousands of soldiers who, like “Our Jack”, lost their lives in the First World War.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is a poignant book which will make children think about the first world war one hundred years after it ended. ‘Our Jacko’ is a hardback book with thick glossy pages inside filled with text and colour illustrations. Some of the text on the cover is in a metallic copper colour. The cover has a jacket which if removed reveals a very different cover. There are also illustrations on the inside front and inside back covers too which should be looked at after you read the story.
The story of Our Jacko is told by Michael, a boy who never enjoyed his brother’s toy, a tin hat he had found. A real tin hat worn by a soldier from the first world war apparently, and Michael doesn’t like to see it as it represents war, something he doesn’t want to ever think about. As the story moves forward, pacifist Michael has to do a special project on the first world war and its this that leads to his family discovering more about the tin hat than they knew. In discovering who it belongs to they unearth a story, a tale untold of a special man who never returned from the war. I don’t want to give away too much more of the story as I think it has a greater impact if you read the tale in full, but the story is a bittersweet one, as the boys, Michael and his brother Otto, are happy and proud of the story they discover but it’s of course sad as it’s all about the war and about the people who didn’t come back which could potentially make some reading this a bit emotional.
While this is a good book to read and I think it’s a brilliant book for adults to discuss with kids and possibly a book to read at school, I don’t think it is a book that children will necessarily fully grasp without an adult’s help. A lot of the story has quotes from Shakespeare’s plays and while these are relevant to the story I do think kids of a younger age may not understand or enjoy this so much. Adults will definitely understand the story and can maybe help children who are younger, but it’s not the sort of book I would pick to just give to a child to entertain them.
The story has a moving ending, and I did like the way that Michael changes his thoughts in wanting to remember and think of the people from the first world war rather than just ignore it. It’s a message that we all need to keep sending out, to never forget. This book feels so special and I think with it being one hundred years since the first world war, it is a book to share and talk about, I think lots of people of all ages can appreciate the story and the way the author is trying to make us always remember.
The illustrations are quite simple but they do fit well with this book. The simple nature of many of them fits as it doesn’t overwhelm the tale being told. I love the colour that’s added to the back of the some of the text when remembering happier times, and the beautiful occasional double page spread that comes in the story along with other images dotted around the text. The illustrations really do fit and have enough detail in them to show what is important without feeling overly detailed and cluttered. I’d also recommend taking a look at the images on the inside front and back covers or the beautiful illustration on the inside of the jacket sleeve.
Overall I’d recommend this book for anyone wanting a poignant book that has a simple yet special and relevant story of remembering those that fought in the war and never came back. However as I said this is a book that I’d see better used in a discussion with children rather than one to just read alone. Once they understand the story then they can read it alone but it’s a bit of a sad tale so I’m not sure if kids would want to.
What do you think of this book which highlights the First World War? Do you like books which remind children of events like this? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂