In 2018 Kate Milner won the Klaus Flugge Prize for most exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration with her debut, My Name is not Refugee. It was a book that encouraged children to think about and empathise with a character in a heartbreaking situation. In It’s a No-Money Day, published this month, she has done this again with great care. The subject of life below the poverty line & food banks from a child’s perspective is treated with compassion & understanding. This book is a must have for every single school.
This is a story simply told and yet the voice of the child narrator is one that has great impact. The little girl’s mum works very hard but, despite this, today is a day when the money has run out and there is no food in the cupboards. Their only option is to visit the local food-bank. Mum is ashamed and finds the visit humiliating but her young daughter likes the kind people who work there. In fact the little child is able to see the good in her day despite their circumstances and celebrates the simple joys like reading books from the library, drawing and imagining life with a pet kitten. Maybe one day things will be different and the little girl remains full of hope. Most importantly the mother and daughter have each other and their love to make even the darkest of days feel better.
Sometimes a book touches you in a way that you feel unprepared for and It’s a No-Money Day is such a book. Despite knowing the subject matter in advance as I turned the pages I slowed down, I looked at the illustrations of the mother and daughter and I cared about them. I cared very much. The voice of the child relating events is one of hope and innocence and the illustrations portray how the mother endeavours to protect her child from much of their situation. One page in particular brought me close to tears and this book could bring home to many the true picture of life for far too many families today. The muted illustrations match the tone of the story perfectly and add to the text conveying much that the young child does not voice herself.
Perhaps some may consider this a subject that is too upsetting for children to read about at a young age but as well as providing a window on worlds different to their own and encouraging empathy books offer children in difficult situations the opportunity to understand that they are not alone. For both these important reasons this moving and topical picture book deserves a place in every single school in the country. Teachers, school librarians, parents and carers alike should be made aware of this poignant and important book. It will prompt discussion, empathy, understanding and, I hope, make a difference.
I should like to thank the helpful team at Barrington Stoke for providing me with the advance preview material.