When Michael’s grandfather comes to visit, he is told not to look at him and not to ask questions. All he knew was that Grandpa had been burned while serving in the merchant navy during World War II. When Michael grows older, he spends summer holidays with his grandfather where he lives: on an island with about 80 residents, in the Scilly Isles. He becomes one of the few people who looks at Grandpa, and in time, Grandpa tells the story of what happened.
The beauty in this story–although it is a sad and painful story–is that Michael waits for Grandpa, never pushing or trying to get at the story for his own curiosity; Michael waits and listens to Grandpa, and by doing so, builds trust.
Because it is a family story that a grandparent holds inside until a caring grandchild listens, Half a Man reminds me of Hidden. Beautifully illustrated by Gemma O’Callaghan and written by Michael Morpurgo, Half a Man is a book to contemplate long after the reading is done.