Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino.
This edition published by Walker Books, 2015. First published in 2008.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, originally published in conjunction with Great North Run Culture (an organisation set up to create art projects inspired by the Great North Run). It’s a heartwarming, tender story and a great read.
The story begins in the present day when 11 year old Liam’s T-shirt and entry number arrive for the Junior Great North Run. All he wants to do is go and train for the run with his best friend Jacksie but Mam needs his help that morning. They visit “ancient” Harry Miller who lives at the end of their street. He’s recovering from a heart attack and a fall and is preparing to move into a nursing home. Liam and his mam help Harry to pack.
Harry notices Liam’s race T-shirt and it reminds him of the hot August day in 1938 when he and some friends ran the 13 miles from Newcastle to South Shields because they fancied a swim in the sea. The story he tells is gloriously life-affirming and captures the spontaneity and fearlessness of youth.
The book switches between the past and the present as Harry relates his adventure and Liam, Mam and Harry look through a box of Harry’s old photos. The past is evoked beautifully, both through the words and the pictures. Together, Almond and Rubbino have created a very tangible sense of time and place. I loved the contrast in the colour palette for the illustrations: the scenes from the present are illustrated in muted greys and blues whereas the flashback story is depicted in rich, vibrant colours.
There is a real warmth to this story. The narrative voice of old Harry Miller is friendly and open as he reminisces fondly about his past and shares his story for the first time in full. The story is tinged with sadness too. I was moved to tears by the final scenes. This is a beautiful book, full of heart.
Suitable for children aged 6+