Hom: The best of friends, the last of his kind
One terrible stormy night a ship is wrecked. A solitary boy survives, washed up on the shores of an uninhabited island… but is he really alone? Out of the corner of his eye, he spies a creature, different to himself but more alike than different. The two form a bond, connected by the loss of their families. Friendship grows. The boy learns survival skills but he can share knowledge from his technologically more advanced world too. They each having something to bring to their new relationship. And then a momentous day – a ship appears, rescue seems imminent but the boy chooses friendship on the island:
I couldn’t take Hom with me. And I couldn’t bear to leave him. If the sailors came ashore and saw him, his life would never be the same.
Jeanne Willis is a writer who can assume different voices like wearing different hats. Hom fits within what I think of as her reflective strand, promoting a sense of awe and wonder at the natural world. It fits her with stories like The Bog Baby, King of the Tiny Things and The Wild Child. The reader is invited to imagine what it would be like to be the last of your kind.
Paddy Donnelly’s illustrations make the point that while some extinctions, like the dinosaur extinction, are an inevitable part of the grand cycle of life on Earth, others have been brought about by human desire to hunt or collect trophies.
Like many of Jeanne’s stories, a tale that seems straightforward has hidden depths. The point at which the boy makes the sacrifice to remain for the sake of his friend is poignant but heartwarming. For some readers, the theme of how society treats outsiders that look different and come from different places will resonate. Others may make connections with well-loved stories such as ET, The Iron Man or King Kong. Others will simply relish the adventure that the boy and Hom will have together on their exotic island where they have everything they need to live a happy life.
A lovely story for reading with children from 3 upwards. There is plenty of scope for book-based projects in infant classes and potentially the themes can be explored with children in the lower junior classes too.
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