Shipwrecked on a tropical island, a boy discovers that he’s not alone. Observing him from the vegetation fringing the beach is a strange, green child with ears like leaves.
‘I’m not sure who was more scared – me or him! We laughed about that later,’ says the boy, setting the scene in a way that invites us close and fast-forwards this most unusual of friendships. The green child can’t speak, but cave-drawings and empathy tell our castaway about his history and character. The boy sends a message in a bottle, as shipwrecked sailors often do, but when a rescue boat appears, he takes the curious step of hiding in the jungle.
This tale of disaster and survival is a rattlingly good read, but there are ideas, too, that give it depth and edge. Why does Hom need protecting? Is this story happening now, or long ago? Does our narrator ever leave the island? HOM raises intriguing questions, but they don’t impede the action and can be addressed or not, as readers choose.
Jeanne Willis really does know how to tell a satisfying, multilayered story in picturebook form, and visually HOM is also a delight. The island’s lush vegetation and changing light creates stunning backdrops for Paddy Donnelly’s characters, and his dramatic instinct is evident throughout. There is always somewhere for our eyes (and minds) to travel in these spreads, and plenty of detail to engage us once we’re there.
A gorgeously thoughtful tale of high adventure that will find a place in many hearts, HOM creates a whole new world of fun and reflection that is spot-on for its target audience.