Alfie Gets in First – Shirley Hughes

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

This is a pretty cute little story. Alfie manages to get inside his house and lock the door leaving his mother and sister outside. What follows is his mother’s attempts to get him to open the door, helped out by various people in the neighbourhood.

While there are a number of named female characters, and they do talk to each other, their dialogue is all about Alfie and how to get into the house, so I am not counting it as a Bechdel pass. I gave it one point for variety which is a combination of the one black kid in the illustrations zipping past on his roller-skates, and the fact that Maureen’s ability to climb up the drainpipe and break a window isn’t really called into question. Neither of these are particularly notable challenges to the status quo, but I’ve been doing this long enough by now to know how rare even this tiny amount of a nod to the diversity of human existence is.

It’s a neat little story though. I like how the various members of the neighbourhood gather to try and help Alfie’s mother solve this problem. And I love that the person who solves it eventually is Alfie himself. He pulls himself together, stops crying, gets a chair and manages to open the door himself. This is a great message for kids – that it’s okay to be scared and upset and cry, but eventually you have to get things together and tackle the problem head on.

C liked it too. There is a lot going on in the illustrations that has nothing to do with the textual story. In fact Alfie’s ability to stop crying and get a chair and open the door is all done through illustration while the grown ups on the other side of the door are still debating what to do. This cooperation between illustration and text is something of which I am a big fan in picture books.

Neat little book. Well worth a read.

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