The life of Walter Tull; the first black combat officer in the British Army in World War One and Tottenham Hotspur footballer is Morpurgo's inspiration for this novel. The story recounts how Michael, nicknamed 'poodle' on account of his 'frizzy black hair', discovers the truth about his family's past and about who he really is when long held secrets are revealed in a letter from his beloved Auntie Snowdrop. The tale spans a century, two world wars and five generations. With great sensitivity, Morpurgo deals with big themes: illegitimacy, racism, single parenthood, cross racial love and truth. The Afterword gives a brief account of Walter Tull's experience as an officer and tells how, despite being recommended for a Military Cross, this was never given to him.