Children’s Book Week Review – Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

by Jane Godwin
illustrated by A. Yi

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six is one of this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia notable titles, in the Early Childhood: Book of the Year category. 

Link to Catalogue record for Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift left home when he was six.
He had heard many songs about the world, and it was time to see it for himself.

‘We won’t know where you are!’ cried his father.

‘I’ll know where you are,’ said Ivanhoe. ‘And you can look out for my kite in the sky. Goodbye, parents!’

This is a story about a young boy taking his first bold steps into a bigger world. It wonderfully captures the emergence of a child’s individuality and independent spirit; their desire to challenge themselves and explore beyond the comforts of the familiar.

His mother sang him a song as he left.

Go well as you travel my little love, over the world as you roam …
but if you grow weary and tire of your journey then let the sea bring you home …
let the sea bring you home.

This picture book is a charming and lyrical ode to the adventuring spirit that dwells in all of us: to see and experience the larger world. From young Ivanhoe’s perspective, a world he has only known through story, song and imagination. We also witness the dawning and growth of the importance of a sense of home; and the comfort, strength, and the joy of returning it gives us.

The author has written this little adventure in a way that seems to capture something epic and mythical, like an ancient Greek odyssey, but on a small and intimate scale. The illustrator has also done a great job of capturing this sense of grand adventure through their beautifully scenic (and for me, wistful) illustrations of the landscapes Ivanhoe travels through.

As you read this book, like our little adventurer(s), please take your time and enjoy all the wonderful sights. Perhaps a little montage will kindle your own wanderlust …