Homecoming by Michael Morpurgo
Ill. by Peter Bailey. Walker Books, 2013. ISBN 978 1 4063 4107 2.
(Age: 6+) Warmly recommended. Short story, Historical, Childhood.Through deft prose, Michael tells the story of Mrs Pettigrew, a woman who lived at the edge of the marshland near their home at the village where he lived as a child. Coming back after an absence of fifty years brings back the memories of this little woman from Thailand, living in a railway carriage with her donkey and dogs. Michael became her friend when he fell from his bike, bullied by a group of other children, and she patched him up, resulting in a strong friendship developing between Michael's mother and the woman. This friendship became much stronger when the village heard of a power station to be built on the marshes, necessitating the compulsory acquisition of the carriage. Michael's mother and Mrs Pettigrew did all they could to stop the development but to no avail.
Now returning, the man sees the derelict power station, long past its usefulness, a blot on the landscape where a dear friend lived. With spare, telling prose Morpurgo tells us of the rise and fall of machines and buildings which are built for short term purposes, left to lie derelict once their purpose has been expended. It is the tale often heard of the little people trying to protect their environment against the powerful machinery of corporations and government bodies, only to have their idyllic existences ruined for little gain. A tale heard the world over, but reduced in this instant to a woman in a small village on the edge of the marches and the young boy she befriended.
Morpurgo recreates the village of all our childhoods, people knowing each other, the closeness and warmth, destroyed by progress. And all of this is beautifully captured by the soft ink and water colour illustrations by Bailey, recreating the atmosphere of village life.