Based on War Horse
by Michael Morpurgo
About the book
Joey loves his quiet, simple life as a farm horse. His best friend is a boy named Albert. As the Great War begins, Albert’s father sells Joey to the Army. Joey then begins a journey that will take him from the farmlands of England though the battlegrounds of Europe. Joey’s first duty is in a cavalry division but with new technologies and warfare practices, the armies on both sides begin to use the horses differently. Joey experiences the harsh realities of war just as the soldiers do on the front line. His relationships with the people he meets along the way gives the reader a very realistic view of this war and paints a very human side of this conflict.
Students will gain an understanding of how the war impacted Joey and how Joey influenced the people and animals around him.
To extend students’ enjoyment of the book, try these:
Another Point of View: The entire book was written from a horse’s point of view. Have students choose one of the human characters from the book. Then, have them create a scene reflective of the story from that character’s point of view. Share a few of the students’ stories with the class. Suggest that students read another book set from an animal’s point of view such as Call of the Wild by Jack London.
Pet Perspective: Have students write about a day in the life of their own household through the eyes of an animal (i.e. dog, cat, mouse, bird, etc.).
Get Graphically Organized: Use this book as a springboard into your unit on World War I by creating a graphic organizer on the main points of the story. As you progress through the unit, refer back to what Joey was experiencing during the war. As you study specific events, discuss whether a horse like Joey would have been around and what his functions would have been.
A New Kind of War: During World War I, many new weapons were used for the first time. Calvary horses like Joey and Tophorn were basically obsolete. Have students prepare a comparison/contrast chart between previously used weapons and fighting techniques of war to the new weapons and fighting techniques of World War I. Include examples mentioned in the book such as machine guns, tanks, and trenches with barb wire. If an extension of this activity is desired, the comparison/contrast chart can be expanded to include new weapons used in World War II. This would require student research.
The Best Listeners: Joey was a great listener. He provided comfort to many people during a terrible time. Have students discuss how animals can be used in this way. Contact an organization that certifies dogs for therapy and assistance. Invite someone who has a therapy dog to visit the classroom and share how dogs assist people.
In the News: Many newspaper articles are written about war. Mostly they are about particular battles or the number of casualties. Have students write a human interest story that could have appeared in the newspaper about one of the following scenes from the book:
- A horse caught in No Man’s Land
- A French farmer and his granddaughter’s life with their new “war horse”
- A horse’s return to its original master