Written and Illustrated by Chihiro Iwasaki
McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968
Allison felt so grown up, staying home alone. For the first time, she had the whole house to herself.
The plot in a nutshell: A girl is home alone during a storm.
Allison’s mother runs to the store and tells her to not let anyone in while she’s gone. As soon as she leaves, a thunderstorm starts up and everything is dark and loud. Allison looks out the window, but only sees a balloon blowing by in the wind. She tries to play with her cat, but he runs away and hides under the piano. She then tries to play piano but the storm is too loud. The telephone rings and she is afraid to answer it. She watches the mother and baby fish swimming in the fishbowl and misses her mother. She draws pictures on the fogged window and then notices the sun coming out. Through the window, she sees her mother coming home, running to the door.
I was familiar with author/illustrator Chihiro Iwasaki from one of my favorite childhood books, The Crane Maiden, which she illustrated. I picked this one up at a used book store, having recognized her style in the cover. This story stands as a stark contrast to lots of contemporary books in which there are lots of characters, intricate plots and detailed artwork. In this story, nothing actually happens. Time passes and a girl waits. But, of course, it’s not a ‘nothing’ to her as she experiences her first time alone and that’s what the book is really about. It’s a reminder that your experiences all have value.
An interesting facet of the artwork is that some of the illustrations show us drawings of Allison or the things she sees, such as the piano or the balloon. Others, though, are more conceptual, including several pages with wisps of color and nothing recognizable on the page. Allison seems somehow smaller and more vulnerable because she is drawn as somewhat delicate and fragile. It makes you share her sense of relief when her mother returns. I’d be curious to see what modern kids think of books like this, which seem ethereal and dreamlike amid the concrete and busy storylines of most modern picture books.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that doing something new can be a little scary, but with a little creativity and courage, you can get through it.