Tag Archives: Heidi

“Looked-after children” – Yesterday and Today. Illustrations in literature.

During 2015 I turned on the radio and heard the following startling statement. I jotted it down

“Every 20 minutes a child enters the care system. There are currently 63,000 children in Care.” That figure surprised me.

Somewhere else I jotted down “Famous adoptees” that I knew of. I wrote:

  • Steve Jobs ( of Apple fame),
  • David Dickinson (Antiques programmes and “Who do you think you Are?”),
  • Michael Gove (Government Minister),
  • Jackie Kay (author and poet), Lemn Sissay (poet – former Writer in Residence at the South Bank).

Of course there are many more famous adoptees.

A few years ago I visited the Foundling Museum in London – the foundation that Thomas Coram set up in 18th Century with backing and support from Handel and Hogarth and other famous artists who were concerned about the fate of the many extremely poor and abandoned children.

Foundling Museum

I had seen the cabinet holding the tokens that mothers left when they left their children – The following matter-of-fact explanation taken from Wikipedia does not attempt to convey how moving it is to see these tiny, simple tokens.

EXTRACT from WIKIPEDIA: “Foundling tokens (coins, a button, jewellery, a poem) were given by mothers leaving their babies, allowing the Foundling Hospital to match a mother with her child should she ever come back to claim it. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of the children never saw their mothers again and their tokens are still in the care of the museum.”

Illustration – “Drawing on Childhood”

In February 2016 a friend drew my attention to an exhibition entitled “Drawing on Childhood”. It was an exhibition that featured the work of major illustrators from the eighteenth century to the present day, who have created powerful images of characters in fiction who are orphaned, adopted, fostered or found.

The exhibition was most interesting. It showed a variety of illustrations, sometimes by different illustrators of famous books, such as ‘Peter Pan’. For example Mabel Lucy Atwell’s illustrations were quite different in tone from earlier artists.

Here is the original book cover.

170px-Peter_Pan_1915_cover

And here is Mabel Lucy Atwell’s illustration of the scene where Wendy reads to the Lost Boys.

Mabel-Lucie-Atwell-from-Peter-Pan-and-Wendy-by-JM-Barrie-1921-c-©-Lucie-Attwell-Ltd-www.mabellucieatwell.com_1-e1449485484439-848x400

 

 

 

 

 

I was interested to discover that in 2015 a graphic novel version of Peter Pan by Stref was published. Here is his picture of the grand house the Darlings lived in. The children can just be seen flying high above the house.

Stref-from-JM-Barries-Peter-Pan-The-Graphic-Novel-2015-published-by-BC-Books-400x400

I imagine that most readers of this blog will be able to think of many stories about orphans. In fact, where would one begin?! Here are some authors and their illustrators that I think of first:

Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and many other characters, illustrated by many different artists – George Cruikshank being one of the most well-known)

Madeline

Ludwig Bertelmans who wrote and illustrated the Madeline stories (1939).

In all these cases, the artists/illustrators added greatly to the story.

Later there were many stories by Noel Streatfeild featuring motherless children. A book I always enjoyed is “Heidi” by Johanna Spiri, illustrated here by Janet Johnston.

Heidi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the more modern era one can think of. Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”… “Matilda” illustrated by Quentin Blake)

CHARLIE

Harry Potter! By J.K. Rowling.

“Tracy Beaker” and “Hettie Feather” by Jacqueline Wilson, who is famously illustrated by Nick Sharratt.

Tracy Beaker

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

After the exhibition I had a cup of tea with my friend in the Museum’s café. I rather wish it had been there when our boys were young. The walls are covered with clearly printed names of people who were either adopted or fostered – ‘Looked After’. Their achievements are varied and impressive and often realised against great odds. It was most interesting and enlightening. I think if I were an adopted person I would have liked sitting there and I think I would have just soaked up the general atmosphere and the effect of all those names.

There is far more interest and I have heard that there is more help for adopted and looked-after children nowadays. I am glad about that.

Stories about Adoption and Looked-after children. Random Musings. Long live Stories and Art!

I love it when I get feedback from people about the blog. Recently one reader asked whether I have seen the recent list published in The Guardian of 10 best books about adoption? Yes. I have, but as with most people, I can come up with my own favourite books.

My best friend at school was adopted and maybe that is why I was always attracted to stories about children who were looked after by adoptive or foster families.

One thing so amazing about life today in the internet age, is that one can discover so many things and learn so many things. If ONLY we had had this resource long ago, I think we could have found more books on adoption, or indeed more help of any other kind when we were bringing up our children. Today I entered “10 best books on Adoption” into the search engine and several lists came up – very informative.

I am just casting my mind back to some of the stories dealing with looked-after children (adopted/ fostered) that I loved as a child. Here are some:

“Ballet Shoes” by Noel Streatfeild – all 3 ‘Fossil’ children were adopted.

Ballet Shoes         The 3 Fossils

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett – Mary’s parents both died

My grandmother used to read me the old story “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and we enjoyed reading it together.   I felt so sorry for little Cedric, as he was not allowed to see his beloved mother.

I enjoyed the stories about the spirited adopted girl “Anne of Green Gables” by Lee Montgomery

 “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri. I felt so sad for her when she had to leave the mountain, her kind grandfather and go and stay in the strange big city.

Heidi

Not all stories interest the next generation. None of the above stories interested our children particularly, although I am sure they would have enjoyed watching some of the modern day films made of the stories e.g. The Secret Garden and Heidi. I have loved watching those with our grandchildren.

The Secret Garden dvd

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately for this small blog entry, I do remember reading one story about an adopted child to Sam, our older son. He really liked “Thursday’s Child” by Noel Streatfeild. The heroine was another feisty, brave adopted child.

“Nothing is going to stop Margaret Thursday from making her own way in the world – not a horrible orphanage, a cruel matron, or even the fact she was named after the day she was found!” quotation from Amazon.

Dear blog-reader – if you are still reading. Here is a further reflection on stories/books. During my own childhood I so loved a story entitled “Jam Tomorrow” by Monica Redlich. It was published by Thomas Nelson and Sons   and later published in paperback. Two young Canadian cousins had to come over and live in a vicarage with their English cousins because their parents had died. I have never met anyone who read this book. I suppose it must have been reasonably successful to be published in paperback as well as hardback, but I am simply musing over the fact that a work of art can have great value even if it does not hit “the big time”. And certainly it is quite irrelevant whether it “hits big money”.  It is very likely that it will strike a chord with  somebody somewhere.

An author or an artist never really knows all the people who have been touched by their book or their work of art.

This reflection tunes in with something I am reading at present – a collection of letters written by an excellent artist Jan Daum. The letters are dated 1952 – 1957. He thought he had ‘failed’ as he never made much money from his art. However, he was a good friend of my great-aunt and many branches of our family have some of his paintings and they continue to bring great delight to all who look at them.

Jan Daum was born in Indonesia in 1892 and studied in Haarlem and the Royal College of Art in London. I found information about him via Google. He was born well before the Facebook and self-promotion age, but someone somewhere has taken the time to put out information about him on the world wide web. I have always loved his picture below.

Jan Daum's drawing

Long live stories! Long live art!