Tag Archives: Karin Littlewood

Bad Dad?

Christmas in jail. Is this an OK subject for a picture book? I think it is, even though we skirt fairly quickly past what Dad did to end up in jail. (He stole something.)

Liz Weir and Karin Littlewood, When Dad Was Away

In Liz Weir’s book When Dad Was Away, with illustrations by Karin Littlewood, Milly finds out about her Dad’s fate in the worst way; from the other children at school. But her Mum explains what it means and the family have to get used to their new life. They eventually visit Dad in prison, showing the reader how visitors are searched.

Dad records stories on a CD for his children to listen to, so apart from the stealing he is clearly A Good Dad. And they get to go to a Christmas party in the prison. This should reassure children who have members of their family in jail. I only hope the description is an accurate one.

In Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? Julie Middleton writes about a very different Dad. This one takes his son Dave to a dinosaur museum. He assures Dave that all dinosaurs are dead.

Julie Middleton and Russell Ayto, Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?

But are they? Well, what do you think? This is a picture book, and its dinosaurs are nowhere near as dead as we’d like them to be. Russell Ayto’s pictures could just about be interpreted as being all in Dave’s mind. That the dinosaurs really are extinct.

Except with the last one. Dad and Dave are dangerously close to becoming more dead themselves.

They RUN.

The unwanted children

In my defence I should mention that I think of them often. But then impotence sets in, because I always feel there isn’t much, if anything, we can do about the children who come to Britain seeking asylum. So thank God for people like Beverley Naidoo, who has just been to Yarl’s Wood – where the children are detained like prisoners – on a visit. Then she wrote an article for the Guardian about it.

There is nothing in Beverley’s tale that suggests this isn’t a prison. They can call it whatever they like, but ‘nicer’ words won’t change what it is. But I suppose it’s reassuring they still required Beverley and the accompanying illustrator Karin Littlewood to bring their enhanced CRB forms and proper ID. To search a visiting author for so long that a great chunk of the time intended for the children just disappears is beyond belief.

And were the teachers in uniform with the keys really guards? Would real teachers stand for this kind of thing? (I asked Beverley if she found out in the end, and she reckons they are teachers, but special Serco teachers.)

It can never be easy to come to a new country as an asylum seeker. To be a child and to be treated like a criminal in one of the supposedly good countries of the world, must be totally bewildering. There is a petition you can all sign at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention/

Please do so now. It’s very quick.

The campaign End Child Detention Now can be found here.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo and Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah are two of the strongest ‘asylum’ books for young readers that I know. Not new, but well worth reading if you haven’t already.