A Horse Called Hero

Written by Sam Angus
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1940. World War II is raging. Dodo, and her nine-year-old horse-mad brother, Wolfie, live in London, a dangerous place during the Blitz. When their father fails to return from Dunkirk, the children are evacuated to Devon. Then comes news that their father, a World War I hero, has been accused of cowardice and desertion. Dodo and Wolfie passionately believe in his innocence, but the villagers close ranks, leaving the children ostracized in the village and bullied at school. Their father, writing from prison, tells them that he witnessed a Nazi massacre of British soldiers, an act against all the rules of war. His superiors don’t believe him, and he faces a court martial. Everything depends on whether anyone survived from the slaughter at Wormhout to corroborate his story.

Wolfie is badly affected by all this, but the chance finding and caring for an orphaned foal he names Hero enables him to put Hero’s needs above his own fears, and the traumatized boy gradually becomes more happy and settled. But the war has another cruel twist and, soon, Dodo and Wolfie’s belief in eventual justice for their father, and Wolfie’s concern for Hero’s well-being, will be tested to the utmost. As the war rolls on and the children grow up separated from their father, what sort of people will they become? This important question is dealt with sympathy and insight.

The boy and his horse story is not uncommon, but what makes A Horse Called Hero different is the standard of the writing. A Horse Called Hero has a lyrical quality, and Angus captures the sights, sounds and smells of country life with an unusual intensity, giving the book added depth. I found it very moving. Recommended for boys of nine plus but girls should enjoy it as well.