Michael Morpurgo is one of the most successful children's authors in the country, loved by children, teachers and parents alike. He has written more than forty books for children, including the global hit War Horse, which was made into a Hollywood film by Steven Spielberg in 2011. He has won the Whitbread Award, the Smarties Award, the Circle of Gold Award, the Children's Book Award and has been short-listed for the Carnegie Medal four times.
Gr 4-6‘Realism and fantasy are artfully blended in this novel set on an island off the Irish coast. Jessie struggles with cerebral palsy, but her hardest battle is against those who continually remind her of her limitations. Unbeknownst to anyone, she climbs the Big Hill that dominates Clare Island. There she appreciates the splendid view and feels the magic of a special place. There, too, she hears for the first time the voice of the long-dead female pirate, Grania O'Malley. Jessie's world is soon disrupted both by the arrival of Jack, an American cousin, and by the news that a mining company has acquired rights to cut off the top of Big Hill to search for gold. However, Grania O'Malley is determined to save it, involving Jessie and Jack in her plans. In a climactic confrontation, Jack makes a heartfelt plea that results in the community ascending the hill en masse to defend it. O'Malley and her pirate band join in to create a triumphant victory. There is a lot going on in the story; however, Morpurgo combines the many elements successfully. Jessie is an appealing character who grows in self-confidence and in the eyes of others. Jack's sojourn to Ireland helps him see what is important so that he can return home able to face his own problems. The appearances and actions of the pirates are convincing, and several minor characters are distinctly portrayed. An appealing, well-told story.‘Jane Gardner Connor, South Carolina State Library, Columbia