Wow. This book has completely floored me. It’s an emotional, sensitive, heart-rending but, in its own way, beautiful book. Of course, it’s always difficult to use a word like ‘beautiful’ about a book that is about the grinding, terrible nature of day-to-day poverty but it’s justified here because we’re looking at the issue through the eyes of a child who is still able to see the world as full of hope and potential.
Here at Letterpress we’re huge fans of Kate Milner’s earlier book, My Name Is Not Refugee and I’ve got to say that I love this one even more. The content of the book provides a delicate touch and an empathy that shows to me that this is an author who really understands her subject.
The storyline is a simple one: it’s the tale, told by a young child, of the weekly struggle facing her mother as she attempts to find the money to make ends meet and to do even the most basic things. There are days – no-money days – when the money runs out and they have to rely on visits to the food bank. But despite all of this, neither mother or child lose the ability to hope and to believe that the future can be better than this. For the little girl, this hope centres on the day when the savings jar dedicated to buying a kitten will be filled.
I’m sure that there will be those who will say that emotionally-charged and emotionally difficult subjects like modern day poverty should not be the stuff of children’s books – after all, they argue, childhood is a special time when the young need to be protected from these cruel realities. But in a world where one in four children live in poverty, this will be the reality for several children in any classroom in the country and they too deserve to have their story told in a way that demonstrates other people understand their lives and don’t judge them wanting because of it.
However worthy the content of any book is, it still has to work as a story and as a work of art – and this one passes both tests with consummate ease. The text is quite minimal – deliberately I think because sometimes it’s not what is said but what remains unsaid that makes the impact. The fabulous illustration – also gloriously uncluttered – does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of delivering emotional punch.
Kate Milner has this to say about what she wanted to achieve with this book:
“I made It’s A No-Money Day to explain to children whose families are lucky enough not to use food banks what they are, and how they work. I also want children whose families do have to use them to see their own experience and not feel ashamed. This is the story about a mother and daughter going through a difficult time but I hope they are seen as more than victims. They are sticking together and helping each other, showing resilience, love and humour.”
I would say she’s done all that and more. It’s an absolute triumph. You really must buy a copy.
(Click on any image below to view them in a slide show format)