A picture book that captures the optimism and positivity of Dame Floella herself this inspiring true life story is a joy to read and is made accessible to the youngest of readers.
When Floella Benjamin was ten years old, she and her siblings, sailed from Trinidad to England to join their parents and begin a new life in London. As a child the young Floella was excited about what the future held for them but life in England wasn’t what she had expected. Dame Floella’s memoir was one of the first books I ordered for the school library over twenty years ago and since then it has become an important part of the curriculum in many schools. It is wonderful that this new picture book version will bring her inspirational story to a younger audience.
When this book first arrived on my doormat on a damp, drizzly morning I said at the time that it felt as though the sun had come out and I really can’t better that description now. This is a joyful picture book with a powerful and optimistic message at its heart; that determination and courage and of course kindness can overcome many things in life. Dame Floella’s personal story is complemented perfectly by Diane Ewan’s vibrant illustrations which are a delight. The cheerful cover illustration depicting the family’s arrival is followed by endpapers showing the stunning natural world of Trinidad and then the details of family life from both before and after the journey contain detail for young readers to pore over. It is an inviting and eye catching package.
This deeply personal story of the Windrush generation is as important now as it has ever been. I was struck by the words on the very first page spoken by Dame Floella’s father, “We have been invited to go to England.” We need to remember that word, ‘invited.’ This lovely story empathises the importance of kindness and the difference it can make. The scenes where the young Floella is trying to make friends at her new school will resonate with young children everywhere. A beautiful picture book for schools and families spreading a thoughtful and important message.
I should like to thank Clare Hall-Craggs and MacMillan Children’s Books for kindly providing my review copy. Coming to England was published on 8th October and is available at all good bookshops and online.
If you would like to find out more about Dame Floella Benjamin you may like to visit her official website.
Historian David Olusoga read Coming to England on CBeebies earlier this month and if you are quick you can still watch it here. It is available until the end of the month and is wonderful.