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Video: Author: ‘War Horse’ was ‘wonderful’ to write

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    >>> this morning on al's book club for kids, " war horse ." it was a tony award winning play and as of this morning war horse was a moving book for kids. it is the story of joey a horse sold away from his beloved owner albert to join the british army on the harsh front lines of world war i. joey fights for survival and wonders whether he will ever reunite with albert . we want to welcome back our book club for kids group. this is their last segment together. bridget, michael , andshamoya and live over skype aubry from north carolina . good morning everybody. this has been an amazing journey . when you wrote the book in 1982 , it becomes a play in 2007 , about to be released as a major motion picture just nominated for golden globe this morning. this has been a heck of a ride.

    >> it's been quite good really hasn't it? you don't expect it these days. it's lovely.

    >> and the kids got a special treat yesterday. they were invited to the broadway show at lincoln center . and i understand michael there was a special guest up on stage.

    >> yes. very, very starry actor and dressed up looking like kind of an old country squire . and i had a walk on part and sang a song.

    >> you sang a song?

    >> yeah. they gave me a standing ovation.

    >> wow. how was he in the play, kids?

    >> he was good.

    >> all right. you get a big thumbs up.

    >> they have to say that.

    >> exactly. let's talk about the book. we want our first, bridget, what is your question?

    >> i know you have a love of horses but what made you decide to write this book in joey the horse's point of view?

    >> i wanted to write a story about that terrible war in which 10 million men died and 10 million horses. not from any side. i just wanted it to be from a neutral side and i thought if i had it through the eyes of a horse that meets british soldiers , german soldiers, lives among french people , then you get that vision of how war is terrible for everyone.

    >> and, michael , what is your question?

    >> was it hard writing the book from one view of the war to another like writing from the german side to the french side?

    >> it was hard. i had to do a fair bit of research. i'm all right from the british side because i'm british. and i went to france and i speak french and so that was all right. the german side i did find more difficult. i had to do it through research. it's always hard but wonderful to do.

    >> all right. shamoya, what is your question?

    >> this book was a very detailed account of world war i so what kind of research aside from the research you just talked about was required?

    >> the best research you can do is to be there yourself. i may look old but i was never there. i did the next best thing which is to go meet some soldiers who had been there and talked to them and they told me of their experiences. sadly now they've passed on but it was a wonderful witness, the last people to pass the story on.

    >> which is really great because in a way this book is part of an oral history.

    >> it is. absolutely.

    >> which is story telling at its best.

    >> absolutely. now let's head over to audrey. she is live via skype coming from north carolina . good morning. thanks for joining us.

    >> good morning.

    >> what is your question?

    >> i would just like to know what albert was doing while joey was at war. why did he decide to have this -- excuse me -- why did you decide not to include this part of the story?

    >> because i wanted to follow the horse's journey and in a way almost forget about albert because i -- the point of the story was to see that war and follow the horse's journey through that war. and in the reader's mind i hoped there would always be this longing for them to meet up again. so that it would come almost as a bit of surprise when they do but it would be a longing fulfilled.

    >> wow. let's find out what the kids thought of war horse . guys? would you recommend it to your friends to read?

    >> yes.

    >> definitely.

    >> wow. that is high praise indeed. you as well, audrey?

    >> yes. absolutely.

    >> all right. let's see how the kids rated the book on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. " war horse " gets four and a half stars. wow. that is terrific. michael ?

    >> i want to meet the person who didn't like it. wouldn't that be more fun?

    >> have a nice little conversation.

    >> absolutely i'd have a conversation.

    >> michael turning all of a sudden. thank you, sir. congratulations.

    >> you too.

    >> you guys have done a terrific job. we really appreciate all of your help. folks, we're putting together our next group. if you have a child who wants to join al's book club if they're between the ages of 9 and 12 and live in the tri-state area go to today.com for more information. we want to reveal our next book. it is, "bird in a box" by andrea davis

By
TODAY books
updated 10/14/2011 9:47:32 AM ET 2011-10-14T13:47:32

Stricken by hard times, young Albert's father is forced to sell his son's beloved horse to the army to support their farm. Joey the horse does not understand at first, but soon learns that his life now involves serving the cavalry. Albert, meanwhile, vows to be reunited with his childhood friend. In Michael Morpurgo's "War Horse," loyalty and friendship struggle to sustain against the tides of war. Here's an excerpt.

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Video: Author: ‘War Horse’ was ‘wonderful’ to write (on this page)

An officer pushed through the crowd toward us. He was tall and elegant in his jodhpurs and military belt, with a silver sword at his side. He shook Albert’s father by the hand. “I told you I’d come, Captain Nicholls, sir,” said Albert’s father. “It’s because I need the money, you understand. Wouldn’t part with a horse like this ’less I had to.”

“Well, Farmer,” said the officer, nodding his appreciation as he looked me over. “I’d thought you’d be exaggerating when we talked in The George last evening. ‘Finest horse in the parish,’ you said, but then everyone says that. But this one is different — I can see that.” And he smoothed my neck gently and scratched me behind my ears. Both his hand and his voice were kind, and I did not shrink away from him. “You’re right, Farmer. He’d make a fine mount for my regiment and we’d be proud to have him — I wouldn’t mind using him myself. No, I wouldn’t mind at all. If he turns out to be all he looks, then he’d suit me well enough. Fine-looking animal, no question about it.”

“Forty pounds you’ll pay me, Captain Nicholls, like you promised yesterday?” Albert’s father said in a voice that was unnaturally low, almost as if he did not want to be heard by anyone else. “I can’t let him go for a penny less. A man’s got to live.”

“That’s what I promised you last evening, Farmer,” Captain Nicholls said, opening my mouth and examining my teeth. “He’s a fine young horse — strong neck, sloping shoulder, straight fetlocks. Done much work has he? Have you taken him hunting?”

“My son rides him every day,” said Albert’s father. “He tells me that he goes like a racer and jumps like a hunter.”

“Well,” said the officer, “as long as our vet passes him as fit and sound in wind and limb, you’ll have your forty pounds, as we agreed.”

“I can’t be long, sir,” Albert’s father said, glancing back over his shoulder. “I have to get back. I have my work to see to.”

“Well, we’re busy recruiting in the village as well as buying,” said the officer. “But we’ll be as quick as we can for you. True, there’s a lot more good men volunteers than there are good horses in these parts, and the vet doesn’t have to examine the men, does he? You wait here, I’ll only be a few minutes.”

Captain Nicholls led me away through the archway opposite the pub and into a large yard where there were men in white coats and a uniformed clerk sitting down at a table taking notes. I thought I heard old Zoey calling after me, so I shouted back to reassure her for I felt no fear at this moment. I was too interested in what was going on around me. The officer talked to me gently as we walked away, so I went along almost eagerly. The vet, a small, bustling man with a bushy black moustache, prodded me all over, lifted each of my feet to examine them — which I objected to — and then peered into my eyes and my mouth, sniffing at my breath. Then I was trotted around and around the yard before he pronounced me a perfect specimen. “Sound as a bell. Fit for anything, cavalry or artillery,” were the words he used. “No splints, not lame, good feet and teeth. Buy him, Captain,” he said. “He’s a good one.”

I was led back to Albert’s father who took the offered money from Captain Nicholls, stuffing it quickly into his trouser pocket. “You’ll look after him, sir?” he said. “You’ll see he comes to no harm? My son’s very fond of him, you see.” He reached out and brushed my nose with his hand. There were tears filling his eyes. At that moment he became almost a likable man to me. “You’ll be all right, old son,” he whispered to me. “You won’t understand and neither will Albert, but unless I sell you, I can’t keep up with the mortgage and we’ll lose the farm. I’ve treated you bad — I’ve treated everyone bad. I know it and I’m sorry for it.” And he walked away from me, leading Zoey behind him. His head was lowered, and he looked suddenly like a shrunken man.

It was then that I fully realized I was being abandoned, and I began to neigh, a high-pitched cry of pain and anxiety that shrieked out through the village. Even old Zoey, obedient and placid as she always was, stopped and would not be moved on no matter how hard Albert’s father pulled her. She turned, tossed up her head, and shouted her farewell. But her cries became weaker and she was finally dragged away and out of my sight. Kind hands tried to contain me and to console me, but I was inconsolable.

I had just about given up all hope, when I saw my Albert running toward me through the crowd, his face red with exertion. The band had stopped playing, and the entire village looked on as he came up to me and put his arms around my neck.

“He’s sold him, hasn’t he?” he said quietly, looking up at Captain Nicholls who was holding me. “Joey is my horse. He’s my horse and he always will be, no matter who buys him. I can’t stop my father from selling him, but if Joey goes with you, I go. I want to join up and stay with him.”

“You’ve got the right spirit for a soldier, young man,” said the officer, taking off his peaked cap and wiping his brow with the back of his hand. He had black curly hair and a kind, open look on his face. “You’ve got the spirit, but you haven’t got the years. You’re too young and you know it. Seventeen’s the youngest age we take. Come back in a year or so and then we’ll see.”

“I look seventeen,” Albert said, almost pleading. “I’m bigger than most seventeen-year-olds.” But even as he spoke, he could see he was getting nowhere. “You won’t take me then, sir? Not even as a stable boy? I’ll do anything — anything.”

“What’s your name, young man?” Captain Nicholls asked.

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“Narracott, sir, Albert Narracott.”

“Well, Mr. Narracott. I’m sorry I can’t help you.” The officer shook his head and replaced his cap. “I’m sorry, young man, regulations. But don’t you worry about your Joey. I shall take good care of him until you’re ready to join us. You’ve done a fine job with him. You should be proud of him — he’s a fine, fine horse, but your father needed the money for the farm, and a farm won’t run without money. You must know that. I like your spirit, so when you’re old enough, you must come and join the cavalry. We need men like you, and it will be a long war I fear, longer than people think. Mention my name. I’m Captain Nicholls, and I’d be proud to have you with us.”

“There’s no way, then?” Albert asked. “There’s nothing I can do?”

“Nothing,” said Captain Nicholls. “Your horse belongs to the army now, and you’re too young to join up. Don’t you worry — we’ll look after him. I’ll take personal care of him, and that’s a promise.”

Albert rubbed my nose for me as he often did and stroked my ears. He was trying to smile but could not. “I’ll find you again, you old silly,” he said quietly. “Wherever you are, I’ll find you, Joey. Take good care of him, please, sir, till I find him again. There’s not another horse like him, not in the whole world — you’ll find that out. Say you promise?”

“I promise,” said Captain Nicholls. “I’ll do everything I can.” And Albert turned and went away through the crowd until I could see him no more.

From "War Horse" by Michael Morpurgo. Scholastic Inc. Copyright (c) 1982 by Michael Morpurgo. Reprinted by permission.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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