I saw Pete and Pete saw me by Maggie Hutchings

cover image

Illus. by Evie Barrow. Affirm, 2020. ISBN: 9781925972825. 32pp., hbk.
Often, as adults rushing to be where we aren't yet, we miss the little things on the way, but not so kids. They see and they notice because they are so much more in the moment so when the little boy sees the homeless man begging on the footpath he does not hurry on like the adults who are either not seeing or choosing not to. Instead he stops and is rewarded with a chat and a beautiful yellow bird drawn in chalk on the path. And that chat leads to his mum seeing Pete and others in the community who had not seen him before . . .
But one day Pete gets sick and disappears. No one has seen him and all the little boy wants is a sign that he is OK . . .
This is a charming story, at times confronting, that really resonated with me because earlier this year a little person at a school that I have been associated with was just like the boy in the story. She saw, she thought and she acted, initiating a schoolwide fundraiser that raised enough money to purchase some sleepwear for those who were about to endure the coldest of winters on the streets of the national capital.
Homelessness is a significant issue in this country and sadly our students are likely to know someone not much older than them who will not sleep in their own bed tonight. While its causes and solutions are as diverse as each individual, nevertheless stories like this (dedicated to the author's great-great-grandmother who was homeless) can start to build social awareness in the same way we are actively promoting environmental awareness. While the issue itself is hard and spiky, this is a gentle story of caring, unselfishness and hope accompanied by equally engaging illustrations that might encourage all of us to look and really see, not to avert our eyes if we don't like the scenery and have the courage of both the little boy and my little girl to act.
Barbara Braxton