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Flamingo Boy ISBN: 9780008134631
Morpurgo, Michael
Published by HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, 2018
Vincent starts on his adventures after his exams in the early 1980s. He has promised himself to go to the Camargue in the south of France to visit the place where Vincent van Gogh painted a picture of boats, a copy of which has always been on his bedroom wall. While there, he becomes very ill when walking along a remote road. Found there by a man and his dog, he is picked up and taken to a farmhouse where he is lovingly looked after by an old woman called Kezia and her friend Lorenzo, who is the man who brought him to the house. The days that follow are hazy because of Vincent's illness, but he begins to understand the unusual household and Lorenzo's unusual ways. He is autistic, but in a time when autism was not understood, the term is not mentioned. Talking little, he calls himself Renzo, and Kezia explains that he works on the farm and also loves and takes care of all things that are hurt or suffer, particularly the flamingos who are native to this area. 'Flam, flam', he says and runs around the room flapping his arms up and down. In the town, he is known as 'Flamingo Boy'. Gradually, Vincent learns more about the pair, and it is the time during World War II that Kezia talks about mostly, a time when she was a young Roma girl, whose parents ran a travelling carousel that came to the local village where Renzo lived with his family on the farm. The story becomes darker when the Germans arrive and the peaceful situation is fraught with danger; for Kezia and her family, being Romas, could be sent away to a concentration camp. Kezia is sent to live with Renzo's family for safety. The lovely carousel so beloved of both families has been destroyed by a bomb that hits the village, and the pieces are loaded up and taken to the farm where it is hoped they can be put together again. But then a tragedy. Kezia's parents are arrested and sent away, their caravan burned, and no one wants to try to repair the carousel any more. There is much, much more to this remarkable and very moving story - a friendly German whom they all come to love and trust ('the Caporal'), the return of Kezia's parents from the camp, the complete repair of the carousel, and a remarkable ending that comes full circle. The portrayal of a boy and then a man with autism is quite, quite true to life and both the way he is treated by those who love and understand him and those who don't is graphically described. I have read many of Morpugo's books, and this one comes high on my personal list of favourites. My grandson, Daniel, loves it too and let me borrow his book to read!
Age: 10+