Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Sam Angus
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Fifteen-year-old Billy joined the army and is being sent off to fight the Turks in Gallipoli. On the way there, he meets a boy named Captain and his donkey, Hey-Ho, who are in the service corps and are sent along with Billy’s platoon. They move from battle to battle, experiencing the horrors of war, but amidst all the fighting, Captain and Hey-Ho are always there providing relief to the troops, especially Billy. Captain and Billy develop a close friendship as they are both far underage. Two years later, fatigued and delusional, Billy accidentally shoots Captain and it almost destroys him. His soul is ravaged with memories from war and of Captain. After it’s all over, Captain finds Billy and they are able to head home together. The end of the war brings peace to the world, but only Captain can bring peace to the inner war in Billy’s mind.
At first this book may seem confusing and dry, but as the story develops readers will find that it is emotionally moving and thought-provoking. The writing is fairly complex and might be hard for young readers to follow. The book is detailed, but it is still hard to get a clear picture of exactly what is happening. This style communicates the confusion of war and the detrimental effects it has on all involved; however, it does make it difficult to hold some of the story together in your head. Regardless, the themes of friendship and loyalty that run throughout the book make the story worthwhile. Additionally, it confronts the issues of war and PTSD head-on through the Billy’s experiences. Readers develop a strong connection with Billy and Captain and will long for the peace and solace that the characters yearn for as well. Although it is slow-moving, it is an excellent read that examines strong themes of both friendship and hardship.
*Contains mild language and mild violence