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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
When We Were Alone in the World
by Ulf Nilsson
Age Range: 6-8
“One day at school I learned to tell the time. Nine o’clock, ten o’clock, one o’clock, two o’clock”. This is the opening line of this bittersweet tale. The young, ‘nearly six year old’, narrator wonders why his Dad hasn’t picked him up from school so he sets off home to find the house is empty and locked, with no one there. He thinks that probably his parents have been run over by a truck and that he is all alone in the world, but suddenly he remembers his little brother who is at playschool. He knows the most important thing is to look after his brother and so he runs to fetch him.
There are humorous attempts at building a house in the back garden, making a TV out of cardboard and creating a TV programme about a penguin called Pingu. It is not long before a familiar face appears over their makeshift shelter and they are no longer alone.
When We Were Alone in the World is an extraordinary warm and funny book from the author and illustrator of the award-winning All the Dear Little Animals. The reason for the children being alone is evident in the first line of the story. Ulf Nielsson takes a serious subject – a child’s fear of finding themselves lost and alone – and injects humour showing the resourcefulness of the children as they attempt to look after themselves as well as the strong bond of brotherly love. Eva Eriksson’s illustrations of the children are adorable and very witty.