Michael Morpurgo’s story, Shadow, tells how Aman, a young boy, flees from the horror of war in Afghanistan and travels to England, in search of a new home.
Living with his family in Bamiyan his father is, one day, taken by the Taliban. A strange, western dog shows up outside the caves where Aman lives with his mother. Aman is initially repulsed, people do not keep dogs as pets, but then drawn to this dog. When Aman and his mother finally decide to flee to England to join his uncle, the dog Aman has called Shadow will not leave their side. It becomes clear that the destinies of boy and dog are linked, and always will be.
As the story opens, Aman and his mother are being held at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, awaiting deportation, after living in Manchester for six years. The brutality of this experience crushes the life out of both Aman and his mother. The grandfather of his best friend from school visits them, at his grandson’s request. Aman tells him about their journey from Afghanistan, one of bravery, friendships and terrible danger. Arriving in England, where he believes he will be safe, he settles into school. Through the telling of his story the grandfather and his grandson are convinced that they must try to do something to highlight the injustice of what is happening to him and his mother.
This moving tale captures the incomprehension of Aman, who says ‘That’s what I couldn’t believe. They put us in prison. We were locked up. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and nor had mother, nor has anyone else in here. Everyone has the right to ask for asylum, to try and find a safe place to live, haven’t they?’ England has become their home, having welcomed them and then, very abruptly and with great inhumanity, rejected them.
Told in the first person this story captures the experiences of many children and young people who flee war and horror to arrive in England seeking asylum, hoping it will be a place of safety for them.
For young readers who may have experienced similar traumas, of losing family and friends and witnessing brutal and disturbing events, and for those that haven’t this story provides a means of sharing and emphasising with one another’s experiences through the friendship of the two boys in this story, Aman and Matt. Telling your own story can be very hard, as shown by Aman who hadn’t shared his journey to England with his best friend. Seeing similar experiences reflected in books can offer a way of sharing and talking about very painful events.
Shadow by Michael Morpurgo