Review: I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me
One day in a rushing city on a crowded footpath a small boy notices a man and his dog. And they notice him. Pete’s world is a small square of cardboard and a grubby capful of hope. The boy stops to chat and is rewarded with a beautiful chalk drawing drawn just for him by Pete. The boy’s heart explodes with friendship but with the responsibility of new connections comes concern and the boy worries about Pete’s wellbeing. How does he endure stormy nights and cold days? How does he fill his tummy when he's hungry?
Fortunately the local shop owners show Pete kindness and compassion in the shape of a yellow raincoat and warm blanket. But it’s not enough and one day the fate of homelessness befalls Pete. So the boy, refusing to let worry defeat friendship, reaches out to Pete in the only way he knows how. No one notices Pete’s reply; adults are too busy after all to notice the things small people can see, even when they are washed away by rain and time.
I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me is a heart-warming lilting tale that has a charming circular quality to it, even the title feels balanced and musical. The end pages reflect hope and love in strong primary colours, red and sunshine yellow, which are duplicated throughout on Pete’s blanket and the boy’s attire. Barrow’s pencilled illustrations exude warmth and sweet naivety which immediately connects with youngsters. The colour tone is bright and cheerful giving readers a sense of hope and comfort in an otherwise sombre tale about the realities of society.
Hutchings’ narrative is born from a desire to highlight the plight of society's homeless and remove some of the uneasy stigmas surrounding homelessness. She believes that a good starting point for discussions about it with children is to follow their natural inclination to show ‘kindness and compassion without judgement’. From there we can all learn to better understand and accept, to feel more and thus experience the magic of new friendships no matter where they might reside.
Every single one of us has a story to tell, a backstory no less that might be grand or tragic, marvellous or hard won. No one knows everyone’s story. I have often wondered what the stories of those living on the streets are. This picture book put me in mind of Bob, the infamous street cat who became something of a star and role model for those living it rough. Like A Street Cat Named Bob, this story is full of heart and gentle revelations that kids will not only see way before adults but will love just as absolutely and nonjudgmentally.
Saw Pete and Pete Saw me
Author: Maggie Hutchings
Illustrator: Evie Barrow
Publisher: Affirm Press, $24.99
Publication Date: July 2020
For ages: 4 – 8
Type: Picture Book
* $1 dollar from each sale is donated to the Big Issue.