The War of Jenkins' Ear

by Morpurgo, Michael. (Philomel, 1995 ISBN 0-399-22735-0) Novel. 171 pages. Grades 5+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


It all takes place at Redlands school, a British prepatory school - not a bad place as such schools go although Toby hates it. Toby Jenkins is a second year student there and though he dreads the moment when the new term starts, he's made a kind of grim adjustment to the mindless rules and conformity demanded here. It's Christopher, the new boy, who upsets it all. He seems completely unafraid of teachers or bullies and he tells Toby and Swann that he is Jesus Christ reborn. Neither the reader nor either of the boys is ever sure whether that's delusion or reality. They all suffer great derision when the secret gets out. Soon a war erupts between the town boys and the school boys at a river which divides the two classes. Christopher's miracles, if such they are, alternately thrill and frighten Toby and Toby is the "Peter" who denies Christopher when the chips are down.

Morpurgo draws his characters and their private and public torments well. This one should cause some lively discussions. God and faith are at the center of this schoolboy novel and what would happen if Jesus came into today's world as might have happened in this 1950's world is just one point of discussion elicited here. There are also the themes of love, peace, hate, prejudice and revenge to tackle.

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