'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 18 June 2011

Review: When We Were Alone in the World

They say the most terrifying thing a child can experience is abandonment, and this poignant book by  Ulf Nilsson takes this concept and wraps it in a warm blanket of love and humour and touching narrative.

Our little six-year-old hero has learned to tell the time at school. Nine o’clock, ten o’clock, one o’clock, two o’clock. At three o’clock, when his Dad fails to pick up him at the school gate, he decides to wander home on his own (it’s only just down the road, after all).

But when he arrives home, the front door is locked. No one is home. His mum isn’t home, his dad isn’t home and his little brother isn’t home, either. After careful deducations, the boy honestly believes his parents have been hit by a truck.

Running to the nearby daycare centre, our lad finds his little brother and sneaks him out the gate to take him home for a biscuit and a spot of TV, but of course, they can’t get into the house… so what do they do? They build a house all their own.

The resourcefulness and care this little boy goes to to provide for his younger brother is beautiful to witness, as are the intermittent tears, the collection of ingredients to make cake batter – even the little flag pole flying over their house, topped with the boy’s hanky.

Of course, Mum and Dad eventually show – much to the boys’ relief – and we soon learn our hero had not quite mastered the concept of telling the time.

The story may be simple enough but it’s the telling that makes this gorgeous book stand apart. Told in the first person, the way this young boys speaks and relates his predicament, directly from the perspective of a young boy, is beautiful to behold. The book is quite text heavy but the narrative flows delectably – and even the youngest of children will be poised to find out what happens next.

Gorgeous, softly sculptured illustrations by Eriksson combine to make this the sweetest, most heart-warming story I’ve read in a long time.

Title: When We Were Alone in the World
Author: Ulf Nilsson
Illustrator: Eva Eriksson
Publisher: Gecko Press, $18.99 RRP
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN: 9781877467349
Format: Soft cover
For ages: 3 – 8
Type: Picture Book