All About Alfie – Shirley Hughes

More in the Series – Alfie
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 5 out of 10.

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

These books consistently do fairly well on the diversity points, and this one is no different. While Alfie and his family are very clearly a white Anglo family, the other people in the world are depicted in all their wide variety. This book is no exception – the one image that is in a semi-public place (Great-Grandma’s retirement home) has all kinds of people in it.

This one even passes the Bechdel, as Mum and her friend, Helen, talk about their adventure, and the owl in the cottage at which they’ve arrived for their weekend visit. Alfie is there, and it is told more or less from his point of view, but the dialogue feels at least a little like two adults talking over the head of the child who happens to be there, so I’m giving the point.

And while we’re on the topic of Mum’s friend, Helen, man I want to believe that Helen is not just Mum’s “friend”, and that they’ve gone off for a weekend away together with Alfie as part of a totally legit poly arrangement. I mean Dad waves them off and everything. Why is he staying home with Annie Rose? This is never explained. I love that it is never explained. And when they’re all frightened by the owl and end up outside, Mum and Helen are totally holding hands!!

I am almost certain that none of this was intended to depict a functioning poly arrangement, but it can absolutely be read that way. And this pleases my little maverick heart. 🙂

The stories in this book really are pretty wonderful. I find myself incredibly fond of Alfie’s Great-Grandma who worked in a factory building airplanes and therefore knows all there is to know about old airplanes. It’s awesome how taken with her his very boyish friend Bernard is, to the point where he hugs her even though “hugging people was something that Bernard did not often do”. (Also, how great is that? That this is stated like a totally normal thing – some people are just not huggers.)

The more of these I read, the more I love this series. They’re sort of very gently and quietly subversive – not in any big shouty ways, but if you’re paying attention there’s some quiet subversion going on there. Great stuff.

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