Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo – a Review

Title: Kensuke’s Kingdom

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Published: 1999

Age Rating: 9 plus

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Having just read Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse before I read this (a war tale, as the title suggests) I was surprised to read such a different style and genre when I started ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’. For instance, it is a much more fantasized and far-fetched plot: how the main character – Michael and his parents left home unexpectedly to travel the world on a yacht at the beginning of the novel. The description, as they ‘set sails’ is beautiful, however, and Morpurgo transforms the slightly far-fetched outline plot into believable reality. And then it is at the end of Chapter 3 that Michael falls off the boat (going after the family dog, Stella) to be washed up on the shores of an unknown island – along with Stella. I have to admit; I found this a little disappointing. How many times have we heard of people being washed up on uninhabited islands?! Anyway, the difference is, with Morpurgo’s tale, the emotion packed into the tale – Michael’s desperation on finding further life, his anxiety of finding food and hope for a ship to pass by and see him. After discovering that the fruit of the island is more or less useless (being too high up in the trees) and no sign of water or any other life, Michael is thrilled to come across a single shard of neglected glass, but the reader is left presuming what this is for (obviously to try and light a fire) as Michael finds a cave to settle down in for the night.

Michael realises he is not alone on the island, when the next morning he wakes up and there is food and water for both him and Stella. A spooky and enjoyable aspect of the plot and it has the reader guessing on who the stranger is… Despite knowing there is company on the island, Michael tries to light a fire to attract passer-bys (fire made by glass). And it is then that the figure appears and demands for the fire to be put out. Another sinister element of the plot. The unknown figure disappears and then reappears later in the day when Michael bathes in the sea, and forbids him to go far out. Angry because the man but out his fire earlier, Michael ignores his advice and wades further and further out. And then he feels and agonising pain: “The agony was immediate and excruciating. It permeated my entire body like one continuous electric shock.” Michael Morpurgo’s description is amazing as he describes Michael’s agony at being stung by a jelly fish (all these Michael’s are probably getting a little confusing, sorry!)

The next thing that Michael knows is that he is in a cave – the stranger’s cave. And this time he is kind and introduces himself as Kensuke. Chapter 7 is mainly dedicated to describing Kensuke’s daily routine and his cave. An enjoyable account of his general life and good to hear (part of) the mystery behind Kensuke. In Chapter 8, most of Kensuke’s history is established after Michael teaches him a little bit of English so they can both communicate better, with each other.

Kensuke, like Michael, had been washed up on the island when his home country – Japan, had been at war with America. Having discovered the beauty and tranquiliy of the island, Kensuke had never wanted to leave and be part of the ruthless war he always pictured occuring in Japan. So on the island he had stayed. Obviously, when Michael had come ashore Kensuke’s mind had been reminded of the war and unhappiness of Japan, and thought the boy had brought enemies with him to uncover his secret island. Because if anyone found out about his island, it would soon be highly inhabited.

Michael and Kensuke become very close but when a Coke bottle is washed ashore, Michael sees a chance of returning to his previous life, a chance of being reunited with his parents. The young boy writes a message and puts it in the bottle, and throws it back out to sea, Kensuke not concious of this plan. But the bottle is washed up on the beach again and this time it is Kensuke who finds it. He is deeply offended and worried. Their friendship lasts but it becomes more reserved and Michael feels more uncomfortable than ever. At last Kensuke gives in, however, and agrees to build a fire. Before help is attracted by the fire, though, hunters come in search of the Orang Utans who live so freely on the island. Kensuke, who had agreed to return to Japan when help arrives, changes his mind, and decides to follow his original plan and live on the island (to save the Orang Utans). And then a yacht comes into view on the horizon. The yacht which Michael and his family had lived on so happily before the boy was lost.

I Have given this book a 4/5 because, though it hasn’t got the most original plot outline, it is a fantastic adventure tale exciting from start to finish. And the description is wonderful.


An excellent tale. I was mystified by Michael Morpurgo’s wide range of genre’s whilst reading this book. I think this shows what a talented author he is.

Next week’s review will be on ‘Journey to the River Sea’ by Eva Ibbotson. You’ll have to ignore the ‘Coming Up’ page, sorry, because I don’t seem to be sticking to it!


2 thoughts on “Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo – a Review

  1. Courtenay says:

    Great to read your review, Poppy! I read Kensuke’s Kingdom a couple of years ago and found it a bit too far-fetched overall, but still a good adventure tale, as you say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • poppyonkirrinisland says:

      Hi Courtenay, yes I feel the same regarding ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’. I don’t think it is one of Michael Morpurgo’s very best books, but it is an interesting adventure book! 🙂


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