When the new picture book from my favourite 1980s Play School presenter arrived I must admit I did a little bit of a happy dance! As a fan of the original ‘Coming to England’ I am just so delighted that this version has been created aimed at a younger audience. Not least because my own book loving 6 year old has grandparents that tell a similar story to that of Dame Floella.
The text is simplified for its new readers but all the key ingredients remain, beautifully and sensitivity bringing to life the highs and lows of the Windrush generation’s experiences. We are taken on a journey from the lush island of Trinidad to the cold Southampton shores of England with Dame Floella’s family.
We begin at the table on the sunny veranda of the family home. Dardie is reading the Trinidad Guardian as he sips his tea, happy faces and a delicious breakfast spread around him. He sees and responds to a newspaper advert inviting workers to England. Hopes and dreams pull him to the Motherland with the promise of a better life for his family. A year later Marmie joins him and leaves the children in the Caribbean with their aunt.
The day arrives when the children are called to join Marmie and Dardie and the excitement is unreal. The four siblings pack their best clothes and board the huge ship together and spend fifteen days at sea getting up to all sorts of mischief! Questions and dreams of the unknown buzzing around in their heads.
The realities of their new life aren’t quite as expected and England takes a bit of adjusting to – the weather, unkind people and cramped living conditions make it difficult to settle. But after a while things begin to improve. Dame Floella has even managed to achieve one of her childhood dreams – you’ll have to read it to find out what it was!
Diane Ewen’s illustrations expertly bring this true story to life, the family, the surroundings and the emotions are portrayed in picture perfect detail. The pages are an explosion of colour and character – perfect for little people (and big) to get lost in!
Now I’ve managed to wrestle my copy back from my youngest, this book will be coming to live in my classroom so that Dame Floella’s story can be shared and talked about with as many little people as possible!