From cricket on a Caribbean beach to building a snowman in an English park, John Agard’s Windrush Child by John Agard tells the tale of one family’s journey across the Atlantic, and their new life as part of the legendary Windrush generation. A poem set to some of the most joyous and vibrant illustrations you’ll ever see, this splendid picture book gives us a unique perspective; told through the eyes of a little boy who is cheerfully unaware of his place in history.
We meet our young hero and his parents as they leave the sun-soaked island of their birth. Grandmother watches them leave, arms crossed in a self-soothing hug, her body language betraying her feelings. For the boy, innocent of adult concerns, this is an incredible adventure and he embraces the wonders of life at sea, stargazing, live music on deck, kids games, and the overwhelming excitement of finally docking in England.
The newcomers arrive under flat, grey skies, greeted by a mob of reporters and a flurry of curiosity. The curiosity subsides but the greyness persists as Windrush Child begins his new life. Luckily he’s fortified by his grandmother’s advice to bring his ‘Caribbean eye to another horizon,’ and a lovely motif of sunshine bright fabric runs throughout his early English days, providing the handmade kite of ‘dreams’ that he flies in the local park, and in a lovely final snowy scene, it is the scarf draped round his snowman’s neck.
An author’s note provides necessary context for younger readers and makes clear the challenges that the Windrush arrivals faced. The £28.10 shillings fare was the least of it. The notes provide a springboard for discussion of the later, darker elements of Windrush history, but ultimately this is a wide-eyed child’s tale of hope and new beginnings.
Artist Sophie Bass provides some stunningly expressive gouache and pen illustrations, her collaboration with John Agard a heartfelt tribute to the 75th anniversary of the Windrush arrivals.
John Agard’s Windrush Child by John Agard is published by Walker Books, 32 pages.