One World Together
by Catherine and Laurence Anholt
(Janetta Otter-Barry Books, Frances Lincoln, 2013/paperback 2014)
One World Together introduces pre-school children to the notion that there’s a world out there with children in it who have different lives but who share the impulse to be friends, wherever they come from. A little boy asks the question, ‘I want a friend. Who will I choose?’, before embarking on a journey to nine different countries, where he meets a different boy or girl.
Each double-page spread begins with a banner announcing the destination country, under which the boy is shown meeting his new friend, who says hello in his or her language against a busy backdrop with plenty of details to explore. The right-hand page is more cartoon-like, with small pictures to illustrate what we learn about the children’s lives. Some of these are general cultural facts, such as, in Japan, ‘Yuuki and his friends bow to their teacher’ or how Li in China ‘eats her food with chopsticks’. Others point more to individual traits that would certainly be valued in a friendship: for example, in Morocco, Mohamed’s kindness as ‘he gives a carrot to their donkey’. The narrative succeeds in avoiding stereotypes, an achievement with this kind of book, by ensuring that even generalisations are focused on the individual child – so: ‘Everyone in Brazil loves football./And especially Paulo!’ The book also encourages young children to ask questions: for example, in Kenya, ‘”We must not waste water,” says Lukas’ – why not? ‘Lukas sleeps under a mosquito net’ – why? One little girl is shown to need a wheelchair, and the boy also meets a set of twins. Young readers will also relate easily to the universal themes that come through loud and clear – playing, learning and the love of families, as well as openness to new friendships.
The book ends with the boy realising he doesn’t need to choose just one of the children he’s met to be his friend – and then an exuberant fold-out proclaims they are ‘One World Together!’ Building on the cover illustration, our narrator and his new friends are joined by other children to surround an image of the world, all joining hands in friendship. Catherine and Laurence Anholt’s books have been translated and sold all over the world and the style of their charming illustrations is instantly recognisable. One World Together is a delightful book for opening up new horizons for very young children.
Buy original artwork from One World Together here.