by Allan Ahlberg - £9.99 Penguin Books Ltd (2014)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780241965665 | ISBN 10: 0241965667
'My mother, who was not my mother, I see her now, her raw red cleaner's hands twisting away at her apron as she struggled to speak. Adoption was a shameful business then in many people's eyes, the babies being mostly illegitimate. Better not speak of it.'
In this, his first book for adults, Allan Ahlberg sets out to recover the early years of an oddly enchanted childhood lived out in a Black Country town in the 1940s. Dipping a bucket into the great well of memory, he writes of 'fugitive memories, the ones that shimmer on the edge of things'. He writes of childhood and the end of childhood, of his first days at school ('Allan is most inattentive and dreamy at times' - school report, December 1946), and the memorable circumstances of his own four parents: 'Two mothers, two fathers and me like a parcel or a baton (or a hot potato!) passed between them. ' Most memorably he describes the day he was told by a girl in the street that his mother was not in fact his biological mother. He instantly believed her.
The Bucket retrieves a childhood which lovers of Ahlberg's classic picturebooks might feel they have glimpsed before in Peepo! but which is now exquisitely brought to life.
(Price & availability last checked: April 2020)
In booklists: Adoption and Fostering: Memoirs and Family Stories, Childhood Memoirs, In categories: Children & Young People, History & Biography,