Nothing

By  Mick Inkpen

There aren’t many books I’ll cry at, but they exist. Love You Forever is one (even with the mildly creepy tones). Bridge to Tarabithia. The Diary of a Young Girl. Parts of Harry Potter andThe Hunger Games series. Note most of these are not picture books.
Sitting on my cart one day I found this little book called Nothing. On the cover it had this cat and a raggedly little doll. Intrigued, I sat down to read it. And all I can say is I’m glad I didn’t have a class coming in, or I might have actually been in tears (which I would have blamed on the dust).
The story starts in the attic, with a little thing pinned beneath tons of stuff. Rugs, boxes – normal things you might find in the attic. It’s been there so long he doesn’t remember his name, or what he is. Then one day, the family who lives below moves out. They find him lying there, but decide to leave him, since he’s “Nothing”. Little thing adopts Nothing as his name and leaves the attic, still trying to figure out what and who he once was. He sees a few animals, each time remembering “I used to have a tail”, or “I used to have whiskers”. But he still can’t remember who he is. A cat, who belongs to the family who just moved out, finds Nothing and carries him away, back to the original family, giving him to the old Grandpa. Grandpa remembers Nothing, and there’s a big reveal of who and what he was.
This just ripped at my heartstrings. Poor little nothing, trapped in the attic all that time, only to be left behind. He reminds me of stuffed animals my sister and I still have: raggedy little things that we’ve loved and slept with and held onto so long they’ve gone that dirty white, with matted fur and lost noses or rubbed-off colour. I can easily imagine my favorite old toy being lost and buried, so that makes it a touching story for me. Most children too, I think, would relate to little Nothing, especially if you read this to them while they’re holding their favorite toy.
The illustrations are simple and effective. The colouring is incredible, and the sense of loss evoked is superb. We have quite a few of Inkpen’s works, and they all share that cartoony style that speaks straight to kids.
Go pick up this work and see if it tugs at your heart – or if you’re a soulless monster. It’s a good barometer either way.
Suggested ages: 6-9
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