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.
Setting the Stage
Discuss the title and cover of the book. Ask students to predict what the book could be about. Ask what war they think this is about. Read the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book. Discuss the painting mentioned in the note. Why would there be such a painting and what could be its significance? You may also make a class set of copies of The Changing War: Analyzing Character Relationships in War Horse printable to have students fill out as they read the book.
After reading the book, discuss the following:
- Were the predictions made before reading the book correct?
- Why do you think that the book was written from the horse’s point of view?
- What war is taking place? Where does Albert live?
- Use a map of Europe and point out Great Britain, France and Germany.
- Why do you think that Albert’s father treats Joey so badly?
- Joey seems to have a good feel of the character of people. Why do you think this is the case?
- Describe Captain Nicholls’ attitude about the war and the use of the cavalry. Describe Herr Hauptmann’s attitude about the war. How are they similar? How do they differ from other peoples’ thinking?
- If you were reading the story from Captain Nicholls’ point of view, what would be the differences in the description of the first battle?
- Why were Joey and Tophorn such a comfort to the wounded men? What can give you comfort in tough situations?
- Discuss the new technology that comes about in this war. Compare and contrast this war with previous war technology. Is Joey useful in this war situation? Why or why not?
- How did Joey feel when he was trapped in No Man’s Land?
- When both the Welshman and the German were trying to help Joey, whom did you want to take the horse? Why? What did the event say about how the soldiers on both sides really felt about the war?
- Joey had relationships with several people in the book – Albert, Captain Nicholls, Warren, and Emile. Joey was a confidante to these people. Why do you think that it was so easy for these people to talk to Joey so openly? In what way was this comforting to them? Students may use their notes from The Changing War: Analyzing Character Relationships in War Horse printable to answer these questions.
- How did you feel when Joey finally found Albert? Discuss the path that Albert might have taken to put himself in a position to find Joey again. Compare and contrast Joey’s journey with the one that Albert might have made.