This is the story of Michell, who comes from another planet to stay unannounced with the narrator, a writer, to gain a deeper understanding of our race. He is 499 years old when he/she arrives, but is a child, not an adult. Where the child comes from, people are born as adults and gain their freedom as children.
Michell takes nothing for granted and looks at the world from an innocent child’s point of view. If he is hungry he can’t see why it is wrong to eat thirty-three pieces of bread and jam or, equally, to pinch money from a bank to give to a starving beggar. Nor why people rather than trees should be consulted when the council plans to build a new road that will create more pollution not for the people but for the trees. And why should animals be behind bars in a zoo when, unlike people behind bars in a prison, they have done nothing wrong?
Michell looks very like a ‘normal’ child except for the pictures on his magic T-shirt, which move and appear to be alive. The world according to Michell is in many ways a far less absurd one than the one we inhabit and is explored by Lewinsky with wit and delightful humour. No wonder the narrator is sad when his guest says it is time to return to his planet to celebrate his 500th birthday.
The illustrations add their special quirkiness to the tale and we can be pleased that what started life as a radio play has so successfully transferred to the printed page.
All recommendations from Autumn 2007