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Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew: Stories and Essays from a Writing Life    by Michael Morpurgo Amazon.com order for
Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew
by Michael Morpurgo
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew: Stories and Essays from a Writing Life, Michael Morpurgo (Britain's Children's Laureate from 2003 to 2005) offers readers a collection of his excellent short stories, interspersed with fascinating autobiographical vignettes that shed light on story origins and his development as a writer.

In his introduction, Morpurgo tells readers, 'I am a grower of stories. I farm them as surely as a farmer does his wheat' and offers his book as 'the story of this writer's story-making journey.'

The first of the shorts, meeting cÚzanne, tells of a boy named Yannick spending time with family in Provence, of his attraction to his beautiful cousin Amandine, and of meeting a great artist. The next, the giant's necklace, is a ghost story that delves into history. Then i believe in unicorns celebrates the power of books and of storytelling.

The account of my one and only great escape tells of running away from boarding school and being helped by advice from the trenches. In my father is a polar bear, two brothers find their birth father, an actor. Many of these tales, like the silver swan, have a strong connection to place and to nature. In the mozart question, a young violinist discovers the shadow that wartime experiences cast over his parents' joy in music.

Morpurgo addresses ethnic cleansing in what does it feel like?; empathizes with those visibly injured in war in the powerful half a man; shares the mind of a young Argentinian soldier in the Falklands in for carlos, a letter from your father; and advocates for the environment and for those who are different in singing for mrs. pettigrew.

In between these short stories, Michael Morpurgo shares eclectic asides with readers, speaking of the need to write, 'my way of feeling most intensely that I belong'. He talks of being somewhat of a reluctant reader as a child but discovering a passion for Treasure Island. He shares his experiences as a teacher and his involvement with Farms for City Children. He muses on the appeal of islands, and argues pros and cons of the fast-track growing that children are subjected to nowadays.

Singing for Mrs. Pettigrew: Stories and Essays from a Writing Life is a facinating and highly recommended collection of stories and ideas, that will be of interest to all ages, but especially inspiring for young writers who are seeking their own paths in storytelling.

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