Written by Libby Hathorn and illustrated by Gregory Rogers (Red Fox)
The story opens on the back street of a big city – it’s early evening and a dog barks and a cat with no name scrambles up a fence. Shane, a young boy, spies the cat and coaxes the “Spitfire, Kitten Number One’ to climb into his jacket, promising he will take it home to ‘his place.’ As he rushes across town the two encounter all sorts of dangers, from a possible street fight to a big scary dog and the rushing traffic and alienating night life.
The evocative charcoal and pastel illustrations add to the sense of living in the shadows and on the edge and raise all sorts of questions for young readers. Where are they going? Where is Shane’s home and where are his parents? Only Shane’s constant friendly reassurances to the cat, calling it a range of affectionate nicknames, from Whiskettes and Mycat to Catlegs and Skinny Minny soften the tone and in return, reassure the reader that all will be okay.
In the end we see Shane is a street kid and his home is a little haven in an abandoned building where he and his new furry friend will (hopefully) be safe. An excellent book to address the issue of street children and a good springboard for discussions around this theme. Reading this book gave my nine-year old a more personal and human understanding of the children we pass everyday. They are just little children with the same needs and wants as him – he is yearning for his own cat. Winner of a Kate Greenway Medal in 1995, this is a great find from our local library. Way Home was my first introduction to Libby Hathorn, an award winning Australian author and poet of over fifty books, and her other books are worth looking out for too.