cover image The War of Jenkins' Ear

The War of Jenkins' Ear

Michael Morpurgo. Philomel Books, $16.99 (171pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22735-6

Despite the title, this is no historical novel, and the eponymous 18th-century war does not enter into the fervid plot. The war here is of the type waged primarily in fiction: an all-out battle at a boys' school. An innocent mistake triggers a series of brutal skirmishes between the privileged students of Redlands, an English boarding school, and the boys from the village. As the ``toffee-noses'' fight the ``oiks,'' even the headmaster and teachers take sides, and class hatred erupts full force. Morpurgo (Waiting for Anya), however, throws in a wholly unexpected twist in the form of Christopher, a Redlands boy who, by means of a few arguable ``miracles,'' secretly persuades several fellow students that he is Jesus. Desperate to stop the war, Christopher and his apostles turn the other cheek and in fact bring about peace. Morpurgo seems to want the reader to believe in Christopher as a Christ figure, or at least to subscribe to Christopher/Christ's teachings, but the is-he-or-isn't-he puzzle leaves little occasion for contemplating homilies. The various elements of the plots are neither believable nor sufficiently consuming to invite a suspension of disbelief-they are simply incongruous. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)