Adrian Mitchell

Illustrated by Sigune Hamann

Tradewind Books / 32 pages / (January 1, 1996)

ISBN: 1896580068

The very best children’s books stay with you long after you’ve reluctantly said goodbye to your youth. Years later, the story, certain scenes, the message, stray from the far reaches of the mind and come spilling forth again. For me, it has always been The City Under the Back Steps (which is long overdue for reprinting). Some books you don’t discover until you read them to your own children.

Maudie And The Green Children is a discovery that everyone — child and adult — should make as soon as possible. It is one of those books that will never completely leave your mind. Take the message to heart and you just might become a better person.

Maudie and her mam live in the farming village of Woolpit. Maudie is, according to her neighbours, “simple.” This judgement doesn’t bother her in the least; by the end of the book, she seems to be the most thoughtful, reasonable character we meet.

Maudie’s life is changed forever when she happens upon the Green Children. Because they look a bit unconventional, because their speech is incomprehensible to the humans, because they are different, they are subjected to all of the poking, prodding, and proselytizing any “aliens” would have to endure. In the midst of this sideshow, Maudie is an unfailing friend who sees no need to question the children’s existence: they exist, that’s all she needs to know.

Fanciful as the Green Children may be, the book is an unblinking look at life, death, and the people who surround us. There are passages that children will find hilarious. There are parts that will make adults cry. Throughout, the tone of the tale is bittersweet; the only way real life can turn out in the end. Each aspect of Maudie’s existence is treated as merely part of life.

There is so much good in this book. Maudie teaches that you may not be able to change people’s attitudes, but you don’t have to pass those attitudes on. Adrian Mitchell’s keen ear for language gives children a chance to experience a bit of another culture, a chance not to be the ignoramus who can’t understand anyone with a dialect. And Sigune Hamman’s breathtaking, original artwork offers us a peek into another world. Look closely — there is more going on in these illustrations than a casual glance can discern.

This book has already been claimed by some of the little ones in my life, but I will be buying a copy just for me. Maudie And The Green Children is a story I don’t intend to let slip into my past. It is, quite honestly, too good to let go.