Liz Weir, When Dad Was Away

Frances Lincoln, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84507-913-0

What a moving and thought-provoking book this is. When Milly discovers that her father is in prison she is angry and confused. She misses him badly. Visiting the prison for the first time is daunting, but seeing her dad makes up for it all. For a little while it feels like home as he reads Milly some of her favourite books, which he has borrowed from the prison library. A week later, she gets a surprise: a CD of stories that her father has recorded. She plays it over and over again. Christmas comes and everyone at school is looking forward to seeing Santa. To her amazement, her family have a celebration too, a Christmas party at the prison. And in the spring her father comes home, the perfect birthday present.

This is a lovely book, beautifully and sensitively written by Liz Weir, the well-known story-teller and former children’s librarian, and stunningly and very atmospherically illustrated by Karin Littlewood, illustrator of The Colour of Home and other great picture books. Both of them work extensively in prisons and with prisoners’ families. Their first-hand experience shines through.

Prisoners’ families will find this a comforting and valuable picture book. It is equally important for young children with no understanding or knowledge of the prison system. Thoroughly recommended for key stage 1 and 2 classrooms and for libraries.