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Review: The Invisible by Tom Percival

An exquisite picture book which reminds us that we all belong here.

Tom Percival's Big Bright Feelings series dealt with tricky emotions and supported children to understand and cope with them. In this book, he addresses an issue that affects around four million UK children today: living in poverty. Tom himself grew up poor and he talks about this in his author's note at the end. By writing 'The Invisible', he hopes to shine a light on the situation that far too many families find themselves in today and remind us that everyone belongs here.

Isabel is always looking for the beauty in any situation. She doesn't have much and mum and dad can't afford to give her some of the things that other children have, but Isabel doesn't mind because they have each other.

Tom Percival's illustrations perfectly capture both the details of the family's financial struggles and its effects, such as the reminder notices and lack of furniture, as well as conveying the love and care they show one another. This is a family who are financially poor but have a wealth of love: mum and dad gaze at Isabel when they go to the park, they read their library books huddled together on their couch and clearly adore each other.

However, their house is cold because they can't afford heating and there is ice on the window frames and bedstead. One day, they have to leave their home and go to live somewhere else because they can't affors to pay their bills.

Isabel's new home is in another part of the city and feels drab and grey. She can no longer see beauty in anything and as more and more people ignore her, she begins to fade away. Then she notices that she isn't the only invisible person and begins to wonder what she can do to make a difference.

This book is about more than just childhood poverty but about how certain people in society, such as the elderly, the homeless and refugees, become marginalised and ignored. Isabel notices people walking past them as though they are invisible and so we see them all beginning to fade. She realises that acknowledgment and support can make all the difference and by the end that is what she has made to her community: a difference. The last few pages are bright and beautiful and I have left those out of my review so that you can be surprised by them.

'The Invisible' highlights the shortcomings in our society that push some groups of people to its fringes, so that they do not feel part of it any longer. Yet, ultimately it offers a message of hope and a reminder that it is through acknowledging others and small acts of kindness that we can ensure that all people feel as though they matter and that they are seen. Given recent global events, this message is more important that ever.

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