Not Bad for a Bad Lad by Michael Morpurgo

Not Bad for a Bad Lad

Written by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Michael Foreman

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

A Lovereading4kids 'Great Read' you may have missed 2011 selection.

This wonderful story was inspired by a conversation that Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman had about a prison at Hollesley Bay in Suffolk that Michael Foreman remembered from growing up nearby. Into this Michael Morpurgo weaves his story of how the relationship between a man – who starts work in the prison stable - and a horse can change a life forever, when you show someone how to follow their dreams.

Master storyteller and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo tells a heart-warming story of how a bad lad becomes a good lad as a result of being treated well and finding something to be good at and to love. A grandpa tells his life story evocatively capturing the changes that came over him when he was given the chance to take care of horses that he loved and cherished. Michael Foreman’s stunning illustrations capture the mood of the story perfectly.

A message from Philippa Perry who works at the publisher:

'Of the 20 or so books the two Michaels have written and illustrated together, I think this is truly one of the best and I heartily recommend it.'

reader reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Not Bad for a Bad Lad a small number of children were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Here's a taster....'He was bad, he knew he was bad but when the grandfather is telling the story he always sees something positive about what and why it was happening.'

Scroll down to read the full review...


Not Bad for a Bad Lad by Michael Morpurgo

This is the wonderfully moving story of redemption from one of the greatest living children's writers Micheal Morpurgo and featuring stunning illustrations from three-time Greenaway Medal winner Michael Foreman. When a young boy gets a reputation for being naughty at school, he reacts by being the bad lad that everyone expects. Leaving school at fourteen, he becomes a thief and eventually ends up in Hollesley Prison. But Mr Alfie, the stable manager, decides to give the boy a chance, letting him look after the horses.


Below is a review written by Tilly Dickinson, age 9

He was bad, he knew he was bad but when the grandfather is telling the story he always sees something positive about what and why it was happening.

I really liked this book, it is a grandfather telling his grandson the story of his life, it is him telling the truth...that he was bad and he isn't proud of the way he was. He tells the story that even though he was bad a few people could see the good in him, even when he couldn't and was sent to Borstal.

Every day he has to go for a run and the best bit was running past the stables because he liked the music that was playing and looking at the horses. Eventually he gets noticed by 'Mr Alfie' who runs the stables, he starts working and finds he loves it. He gets taught to respect the horses and discovers that they respect him back, particularly one horse 'Dombey' that he is put in charge of.

He leaves Borstal and finds he has nowhere to go and nothing to do until he helps a soldier with a nervous horse. The soldier sees how good he is with the horse and suggests that he joins the army where he meets his old friend 'Dombey'. I liked the way everything works out in the end, he gets to do the things he loves best, be with the horses and play drums. Basically it's not bad for a bad lad, he turned out okay.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was that it was too short, I wish it had lasted longer!


Further Praise for Not Bad for a Bad Lad.

"A classic collaboration and a tale of redemption." Fiona Noble, The Bookseller

“… the message is that youngsters need to feel good about themselves." Nicolette Jones, Sunday Times

"This is a beautiful book, from cover to cover, and a beautiful story too. …" Armadillo Magazine

About the Author

Michael Morpurgo

March 16 was Michael Morpurgo month on Lovereading4kids - click here to view the favourites we selected on themes of Legends, Animals, War and Journeys.

Michael Morpurgo, OBE, MBE, is one of the UK’s best-loved authors and storytellers. He was appointed Children’s Laureate in May 2003, a post he helped to set up with his friend Ted Hughes in 1999. He was awarded an OBE for services to Literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2007. He has written over 120 books, including Kensuke’s Kingdom which won the Children’s Book Award 2000 and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal in 2000. His novel, Private Peaceful, a harrowing story about the First World War was published in Autumn 2003. It won the 2004 Red House Children’s Book Award and the Blue Peter Book Award in 2005. His novel Shadow about a boy from Afghanistan and the dog he befriends won the Red House Children’s Book Award, voted for by children.

Many of Michael’s books have been adapted for the stage. These include Private Peaceful, Kensuke’s Kingdom, Why the Whales Came and The Mozart Question, and most notably, the National Theatre’s production of War Horse which then moved to a theatre in central London. This production of Michael’s moving and powerful story of survival on the Western Front, which reached number one in the Observer’s top ten theatre performances and was also awarded the best design prize in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. This production also played in New York where it was awarded five Tony Awards. In 2012 the film adaptation of War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg, was a box office success.
Michael travels all over the UK and abroad talking to children and telling his stories and encouraging them to tell theirs.

In 1976, Michael and his wife, Clare, started the charity Farms for City Children. They help to run three farms around the country, in Gloucestershire, Pembrokeshire and North Devon. Each farm offers children and teachers from urban primary schools the chance to live and work in the countryside for a week, and gain hands-on experience. For more information about the work of Farms for City Children, please visit

Michael Morpurgo lives in Devon with his wife Clare. He has three children and seven grandchildren.

Michael Morpurgo was our Guest Editor in June 2010. Click here to see the books that inspired his writing, or scroll down to see books written by Michael.

Anthony Horowitz on Michael Morpurgo:

'Michael Morpurgo is the most solid, classical of children's authors. He sits outside the series-driven blockbusters so beloved of publishers nowadays: he hasn't created a Harry Potter or an Alex Rider – and I admire him for resisting that. We are opposite sides of the same coin and, although his work has never influenced mine, I admire the eloquent, considered voice of his best books. He has an unerring moral compass – his schoolteacher past has never quite left him – and books such as War Horse and The Butterfly Lion have a strong social concience and an honesty that makes them universal.' (The Guardian)

Why not CLICK HERE to take a peek at Michael’s 10 Rules for Writing.

or Click here to read a Q&A with the author.

You can also read about his life in a new biography, War Child to War Horse, to which he has contributed seven stories - click here to find out more.

Michael is the inaugural President of the Historical Writers Association starting from Autumn 2011, ( It was founded to bring social and professional support to writers of historical fiction and non-fiction, publishers, agents and booksellers, all bound both by their common interest in historical books and by the sense of community that comes from a shared obsession.

Since its creation, the Historical Writers' Association has launched a Festival of Historical Writing in association with English Heritage as part of their Festival of History at Kelmarsh in Northamptonshire.


March 2016 was Michael Morpurgo Month - a special month-long celebration of the varied and wonderful works of Michael Morpurgo as he celebrates his 70th year and also to mark the 40th anniversary of his and his wife’s Farms for City Children charity. Each week we featured a different selection of books under the themes of Journeys, War, Legends and Animals. We invited our readers to review many of the books that featured during Michael Morpurgo month - and you can download all their reviews here.

If you like Michael Morpurgo you might also like to read books by Robert Westall, Anne Fine, Sarah Lean and Celia Rees.

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Book Info


128 pages
Interest Age: From 9


Michael Morpurgo
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Templar Publishing

Publication date

1st May 2010




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