A Medal for Leroy
1940s. Michael lives in London with French mother, Christine. His father, Roy, was a Spitfire pilot killed in a dogfight over the Channel before Michael was born. Every few months, he and Christine visit Aunties Pish and Snowdrop, who brought up the orphaned Roy after his mother was killed in a Zeppelin air-raid during World War I. Michael longs to know more about his father, but nobody will talk about him. All Michael has is his father’s medal and the company of Jasper, his father’s beloved dog – and it’s not nearly enough.
When he’s 13, things change. Auntie Snowdrop dies and Auntie Pish falls ill. Michael and Christine take in Jasper – to Michael’s delight. Then a parcel arrives containing Auntie Snowdrop’s photo of his father and, hidden behind the frame, a writing pad. In it, Auntie Snowdrop tells the real story of both his father and his grandfather, Leroy, a World War I hero.
This book is about family secrets and the cost of keeping them hidden. It’s also about the emotional adjustments that must be made when the truth comes out. Leroy’s story is inspired by the life of Walter Tull, son of a white English mother and a black father from Barbados. Walter was brought up in an orphanage and, later, became a professional footballer and the only black officer in the British Army during World War I. He was killed in 1918 and has no known grave.
There is an interesting postscript about how the author’s discovery of Walter Tull and an afterword on Walter Tull’s own life, as well as stories of modern black soldiers whose bravery, at last, is honoured as it should be.
A Medal for Leroy is a moving story, sympathetically illustrated by Michael Foreman, which will appeal to children of 10 plus.