Two children find goodwill and acceptance in unexpected places — even in the hardest of times — in a moving tale from a master picturebook creator.
In 1930s Liverpool, where streetcars clang on iron tracks, young Bronwen and Dylan live with their widowed Mam. Every day, in the wee hours of morning, Mam leaves the two alone as she gathers other people’s laundry to boil in a big metal copper at home. At night, if she’s not too tired, Mam tells fanciful tales of dragons and ghosties, and on Sunday, she cautions the children about the O’Rileys next door, who go to a church that is not for their kind. But on Christmas Eve, when Mam must go out, Bronwen and Dylan hear a ghostly plonk! plonk! plonk! from the washroom that sends them running straight into the arms of Mrs. O’Riley. Not only do they find that the house next door harbors nothing to fear, but it may hold a blessing for Mam, too. With evocative drawings full of compelling detail, Shirley Hughes tells a timeless, genuine tale of community and human kindness.
Hughes’s latest is a love letter to her childhood in 1930s Liverpool. Like Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales (rev. 11/04), its strength comes as much from the specificity of the author’s memory as from the Christmastime setting. —The Horn Book