Friday 24 September 2021

The Little Stowaway: a true story

The Little Stowaway: a true story written by Vicki Bennet, illustrated by Tull Suwannakit (Scholastic) ISBN 978 1 74299 307 2  RRP $ 24.99

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Set during the first World War, The Little Stowaway tells the real story of a young French orphan named Honoré and an Australian airman called Tim. When he finds the boy cold and hungry, Tim takes him in. He calls him Young Digger and teaches him to ice skate and box. With a stray dog called Fella, Honoré makes himself useful, becoming the official rat catcher for the Australian Flying Corps. Then when the war finishes, Tim smuggles Honoré home to Australia so he can adopt him into his family.

The story tells from a child’s perspective, the effects of war and the kindness of strangers. There’s a bit of action in the middle of the book where Tim smuggles Honoré onboard a ship – first across the English Channel to France and then sailing all the way to Australia. Honoré is hidden in a basket and then a bag (hence the name the Stowaway). When he is let out, there’s a lovely double page spread showing the ocean with all its freedom and peace. And the happy ending where Honoré becomes part of Tim’s family is great because it is true.

With sepia tinted pages, the illustrations are a mix of drawings and old photos provided by the real family. The muted tones of the pencil and watercolour pictures blend in well with the old black and white photos. Showing the army barracks, the planes, soldiers in uniform and the ship home, the photos add to the sense of history.

Vicki Bennett teamed up with Tull Suwannakit for a book that came out earlier in the year called The Flying Angel, set around a similar time (just after the First World War). Their most recent book, The Little Stowaway, is suitable for primary school students.


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