Not Bad for a Bad Lad ISBN: 9781848773080
Published by Templar, 2010
This is a stunningly produced book - a hardback with beautiful watercolour illustrations, some of which are two page spreads; it even has a ribbon bookmark! In the form of a grandfather telling his grandson about his early years when he was a 'bad lad', the text tells in graphic detail of hard times at school where he was considered a 'good-for-nothing waste of space', of music (and the teacher Miss West) his only source of pleasure, of stealing an orange and being made an example of in front of the entire school, of his further exploits which included getting in with the wrong gang and stealing a car. He does well by his ill-gotten gains, but is finally caught, and at 16 is rejected by his mother and sent to borstal. This is tough, but his saving grace is one Mr Alfie, who is in charge of the Suffolk Punch horses at the borstal stables. Mr Alfie also loves music, drumming in particular, which is our 'bad lad's' interest. He is soon helping out at the stables, and Mr Alfie becomes the father figure he never had. A special horse comes into his life too - Dombey - who needs extra care, and when Dombey is sold on, the 'bad lad' is bereft. But Mr Alfie is able to say to him: 'I think you're not bad for a bad lad, not a bad lad at all.' This and his memories of Miss West hold him in good stead when he leaves the borstal and joins the army. There he discovers not only real music talent, but also Dombey, who has become a drum horse, and in time they lead the military parade. At the back of the book there are some pages of history, explaining the borstal system, Suffolk Punch horses, and horses in the military. This is a lovely story in a lovely book - and as not unexpected with Michael Morpurgo, has a horse as a leading character!