Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and Blood Rose Angel
What we thought: An incredibly moving, powerful and compelling story from the talented Michael Morpurgo, Alone on a Wide Wide Sea is based on the harrowing scandal of the Child Migration Scheme of the mid-nineteenth century, where thousands of children were shipped to Australia, mainly to solve the problem of overcrowding in British orphanages.
Orphaned during WW11, six-year old Arthur Hobhouse is separated from his sister, Kitty, when he is sent on a horrendous voyage to Australia in 1947, losing not only his birth country and everything he knew, but also his very identity.
Throughout his early harsh and cruel years in the Australian outback, Arthur gained solace from his only possession: a “lucky” key his sister, Kitty gave him before they were separated, as well as the song London Bridge is Falling Down playing over and over in his mind.
Despite suffering unspeakable hardships with fellow orphan Marty, Arthur ends up becoming a master-boat builder. He builds a yacht for his daughter Allie, in which she wants to sail to England in search of Kitty, her father’s long-lost sister.
This is where the second part of the story begins: a largely one-way conversation via email from Allie as she embarks on her long and difficult voyage to England.
Through his lyrical and moving prose, the author evokes a whole array of emotions: desperation, sadness and misery, through to frustration and inspiration.
Apart from the harrowing issues of the treatment suffered by the orphans, this story also explores the strength of family ties and the need to know who you are, and where you come from, something that was stripped from the children as soon as they set foot on the boat that would take them to Australia.
Based on fact, this heart-warming, heart-wrenching story brings history alive, and I would recommend it not only to young readers, but for adults too.
You’ll like this if you enjoy: 20th century Australian and British history scandals. Other books and films dealing with the Child Migrant Scheme, such as Lesley Pearse’s Trust Me, and Margaret Humphrey’s Empty Cradles, the film: The Leaving of Liverpool and the documentary: Sunshine and Oranges.
Avoid if you don’t like: Cruel and ruthless treatment of helpless children.
Ideal accompaniments: A warm, comforting Horlicks.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Available on Amazon