A bittersweet tale of brotherly love and imaginations gone wild.

John McIntyre, Radio New Zealand National

When We Were Alone in the World

When We Were Alone in the World is a warm and funny book about a big brother’s courage and inventiveness

  • Description

    When We Were Alone in the World is an extraordinarily warm and funny book about a big brother’s courage and inventiveness when he discovers his parents have been run over by a truck – or have they?

    From the author and illustrator of All the Dear Little Animals (Gecko Press).

    ‘I think this has the same dry humour as All the Dear Little Animals. It is so true to childhood – the boy taking on responsibility and acting beyond his years – and is all about the power of imagination.’
    Julia Marshall, publisher

  • Book Details

    Country of Origin Sweden
    Reader Age 6-8 year
    Book Size

  • Reviews

    1. The Weekend Sun, February 2010

      Love and courage shine through in this heart-warming tale of a resourceful young boy. When his father doesn’t collect him from school at 3pm he walks home by himself. But his parents aren’t there so he decides something awful has happened to them. The gentle-faced boy wipes away his tears and realises it’s now up to him to care for his little brother. He collects him from the sandpit at playschool and takes him home. Although they can’t get into their locked house, big brother goes to great lengths to provide shelter, food and distraction. His creative solutions give a glimpse into a young child’s train of thought. Subtle watercolour illustrations add pathos and humour to the story. The children’s expressive faces and body language highlight their vulnerability. Fortunately, all’s well that ends well. Note: learning to tell the time can be tricky.

    2. Waikato Times, December 2009

      One day at school a small boy learns to tell the time. Now he knows at three o’clock Dad will come to pick him up, but Dad isn’t outside. Has something happened? He collects his brother from playschool, heads home and faces the idea of living without Mum and Dad, who have somehow disappeared. A lovely and funny book about brotherly love and the confusing concept of time.

    3. Nelson Mail, January 2010

      It seems that any publication put out by Wellington’s Gecko Press is a sure bet these days. They are the bee’s knees in children’s books. Julia Marshall, the astute founder of the small publishing company, hunts out best selling foreign children’s books, particularly from Sweden and Germany, and sets about having them translated. A sure bet indeed. What’s significantly good about this book is that the story unearths a personal fragment of what it was to be a child, a quirky idiosyncrasy that a child relates to and and older reader says, oh yes, I remember thinking/feeling/doing that.

      When We Were Alone in the World takes the moment when a little [boy] learns to tell the time. He then realises that his parents are late to collect him from school. After much waiting he concedes that they are not coming, ever, to collect him and his baby brother. The boy sets out to take care of his brother. The illustrations are wonderfully evocative. Both author and illustrator leave room for inquisitiveness, room for the readers to discover a world for themselves. There are moments of humour, inventiveness and warmth. Mostly, this is a story about love and the power of the imagination. Really, it will delight anyone who reads it.

    4. Northern Advocate, December 2009

      Gecko Press specialise in bringing the best of foreign-language children’s books to a wider audience and so any new titles from Gecko are guaranteed to be of high quality. When We Were Alone in the World is such a treat. The hero has been learning to tell the time at school but over-confidently goes home too early to a locked and empty house.

    5. Storylines, November 2009

      A lovely picture book to share with school-aged children. A big brother learns to tell the time at school and when no-one comes to pick him up at three o’clock he knows that something dreadful must have happened to his parents. He knows that he will have to take care of his little brother and look after him until they are both grown up. Once he has his brother they set to building a house that would probably be good enough until ‘we grew old, left home and went to university.’ The two boys make their house comfortable, make a television and even manage an after-school snack. Then just when things are getting a bit difficult and they’re starting to feel sad their parents arrive and a big misunderstanding is resolved. Beautiful illustrations capture the expressions of care and concern between the two brothers with warmth and humour.

    6. Talespinner, September 2009

      Nobody in this story has a name. The narrator is presumably the little boy in the pictures with the red jacket and the flap-cap hat, who has just learnt to tell the time: ‘Nine o’clock, ten o’clock, one o’clock, two o’clock’. When Dad doesn’t arrive to collect him from school at three, he begins to walk home, collecting his little brother from nursery school along the way. When no-one is home he decides that a truck must have run his parents over, so they will have to look after themselves. They have fun, building a hut, beds of branches and moss, and a pretend television set out of a cardboard box. They even mix a cake having borrowed the proverbial cup of sugar (and a little more) from the neighbour. But all ends well – did you notice the jump from ten to one o’clock? Lovely!

    7. 50 Best Children’s Books of 2009, The Listener, December 2009

      When We Were Alone in the World by Ulf Nilsson and Eva Eriksson is as strange and delicious as their earlier All the Dear Little Animals. A five-year-old boy goes home to find his parents missing. He realises immediately that they must have been run over by a truck. He and his younger brother are now all alone. Unless, possible, he went home two hours early by mistake. Nilsson’s ability to inhabit a child’s mind is frankly astonishing.

    8. Story Time Books for Kids, September 2009

      We normally think of imagination as a wonderful asset, but sometimes it can get us into trouble when it is overactive. The team who brought us All the Dear Little Animals, which was one of the first Gecko Press books, writer Ulf Nilsson and Eva Eriksson are back with another wonderful picture book. The narrator tells us that he learned to tell the time at school. So at three o’clock he goes home, but no-one is there. He works out that they must have been run over by a truck and killed, so he goes and gets his little brother from playschool, and together they start building a house, and a tv and a remote control. They borrow cake ingredients from a neighbour, mix them and eat them raw. Then the elder brother makes a tv programme for the younger, but it becomes too sad for him. Just at that moment the parents discover them. They work out that the elder boy missed a couple of hours in his lesson on telling the time and came home early. Wonderful, and another worthy addition to the Gecko catalogue.

    9. Feilding Herald, September 2009

      The storyteller is a five-year-old who is just learning to tell the time. At 3 o’clock he waits for his father outside the school but he doesn’t turn up. So he walks home, only to find the house locked and no one at home. This must mean his parents are dead, run over by a truck. So he goes to his little brother’s preschool and takes him home. ‘I’ll look after you very, very well. Everything will be just like normal.’ They build a house in the backyard, make their own TV, and borrow cake ingredients from an elderly neighbour. Of course he had got the time wrong and Mummy and Daddy were still at work. They are frantic when they find the boys missing. This is a delightful story of childhood from the award-winning Swedish author of All the Dear Little Animals. Recommended for ages 7 and up, the book will be a popular read for parents and grandparents.

    10. The Children’s Bookshop, Kilbirnie, October 2009

      A new book from boutique publisher Gecko Press is bound to be quirky and unique and this bittersweet tale of brotherly love and imaginations gone wild is certainly that. When Dad doesn’t arrive at school to pick up our narrator and his parents aren’t at home, he immediately knows something tragic has happened to them… And what about his little brother whom he collects from pre-school? Big brother must now look after him and be strong and brave so that he won’t worry. Together that afternoon they start to build their new lives with the few things they find in the backyard.

      You’ll love this pognant, whimsical and ultimately funny look at loss through a child’s not-always-accurate eye, translated into English by Gecko’s publisher Julia Marshall.

    11. Tomorrow’s Schools Today, October 2009

      This book is about a six year old boy who has just learned how to tell the time, who leaves school only to find his dad is not there to pick him up. He walks home only to find that his parents are not there either and the house is locked.

      Fearing the worst (that his parents have been hit by a truck), he picks up his younger brother from playschool. He then tries to not only look after his brother but make sure things are as normal as possible including building a house and even a television, but what has really happened to their parents?

      This is a book of a brother with great courage and inventiveness who obviously loves his younger brother and wants to take care of him. The story is told with Ulf Nilsson’s usual dry humour. It is a delightful story of a boy using his imagination and initiative to take care of a sibling, and in doing so acting well beyond his young years. It is a story that young children will love, laugh at and relate to.

    12. Hawke’s Bay Today, October 2009

      If ever there was a reason to learn to tell the time properly, this is it. An unusual little story about two brothers, the older having just learned to tell the time at school. When he thinks it is 3 o’clock – time to go home – he heads outside to meet his father. But no father… After waiting a while the boy decides his parents must have been killed in a terrible accident involving a large truck. So he decides it’s up to him to take responsibility for his little brother. After collecting him from day card, building a house for themselves out of fence palings and mixing up a cake for a snack, the pair suddenly begin to feel a bit sad at the loss of their parents.

      Okay, so the first part of the book is a bit macabre in terms of humour, boys whose parents have tragically died. But the story does take an unexpected turn and it isn’t a tragedy at all, rather a comedy about how not being able to tell the time can get you into trouble.

    13. Time Out Bookstore, September 2009

      A wonderfully warm and funny book about a courageous big brother and a big misunderstanding.

    14. Christchurch City Libraries blog, August 2009

      My first impression of Ulf Nilsson’s When We Were Alone in the World was `What the?’ It starts with a boy who is waiting at the front gate of his school for his parents to pick him up. He has just learnt to tell the time and he knows that he gets picked up at 3 o’clock. When his Dad doesn’t arrive he walks home. He gets home to find that the door to his house is locked and his parents are nowhere to be seen. He comes to the conclusion that they are dead, probably run over by a truck, and so he sits on the steps and cries. `I wasn’t even six years old and I was alone in the world,’ he says. I thought this was a little strange considering it’s a children’s picture book, and so I had to keep reading to find out how the story ended. I won’t give the ending away (you’ll just have to read it to find out) but needless to say, it’s positive. It is actually quite a clever story that is warm and funny, especially at the end when you realise what has happened. When We Were Alone in the World is another fantastic Gecko Press publication. If you haven’t already discovered some of their translations of `curiously good books from around the world,’ we have a great selection of them in the library. Also, if you loved Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop’s Snake and Lizard, look out for Friends: Snake and Lizard, coming in October.

    15. Around the Bookshops, August 2009

      The little boy has just learned to tell the time and knows that Dad will collect him from school at 3 o’clock. When Dad doesn’t show he goes into overdrive imagining that both his parents have been run over by a truck and killed and that he and his little brother are now alone in the world and must try to build themselves a new house. Of course the adult reading the story will know that he has just miscalculated the time but for a child listening (or reading) the tension is great as the story builds, fortunately to a happy climax. This is another endearing story from the author and illustrator of All the Dear Little Animals.

Available worldwide from your local bookstore or online.

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