Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush is a completely gorgeous picture book for young primary school age children. The story is by Riverside favourite Patrice Lawrence (we are particular fans of her young adult mystery, Eight Pieces of Silva).
Ava loves spending time with her Granny. They sing together and love to spend time with each other. When Ava needs help to decide which admirable person to dress up as for school, it’s obvious that Granny should help her work this out. Granny tells Ava all about wonderful women like Mary Seacole, Rosa Parks and Winifred Atwell.
She starts to talk about her own life, coming to the UK from Trinidad and making her life here. Ava realises that maybe she doesn’t have to look very far to find someone who has shown real courage.
As Granny looks through her memory box, we learn her story, and the courage that it takes to go so far from your first home and make a new life for yourself. I loved the emphasis here on family storytelling, and Sucre’s thoughtful illustrations bring the emotions of the narrative to life. The colour contrasts between the muted new place when Granny is homesick, compared to the vivid colours of her remembered island home, become extra important when she meets her future husband and her new city becomes colourful for her.
I loved the romance of Granny’s relationship: “I met your grandad. He was the conductor on the bus that took me to work every day. At first, we would just smile at each other. Then it was ‘good morning’. Soon, in spite of the noise in the factory, I looked forward to my morning journey… And my journeys home, when he would cross the whole of London just to come and meet me”.
This reminded me that there is an exhibition I’m keen to go to at the London Transport Museum right now called Legacies: London Transport’s Caribbean Workforce. The webpage has lots of lovely links to music and other resources which would complement Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush too.
This is a sensitive and relatable book, tied to the lives of the Windrush generation and their families, but clearly speaking to timeless themes of making new lives and families far from home. I loved the author’s dedication, which shone through the story too: “To those that come from across the world. I hope you find love and peace.”