Trevor Roberts is a cub reporter in a small town in eastern England during the 1950s whose big break as a journalist comes when he interviews a World War I Navy veteran about his famous pet tortoise.
Foreman’s book is based on the true story of Henry Friston, who was shipped off to Gallipoli as a gunner on the battleship HMS Implacable. Henry’s detailed narrative, which unfolds over days of interviews, and pages from his diary recount desperate naval battles, the hazardous landing of Allied troops on the Turkish coast, and the close shave that brought young Henry his unusual pet, christened Ali Pasha, who saved his life and became his constant companion and troop mascot. The text deftly conveys both the thrills and horrors of war and touches on some important moral issues, particularly when Henry comes to understand during a truce that the enemy is no different from him and his British companions. Foreman is that rare artist who writes as well as he illustrates. His simple but engaging text is complemented by his charming, movement-filled watercolor vignettes and spreads, reproduced in black and white. The story teaches history with a light touch, and the focus on the emotional bond between the young soldier and his beloved tortoise will captivate even the most cynical heart.
An original middle-grade novella with unusual richness and depth. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)