During her lifetime, author Margaret Mahy won many major literary prizes given for children’s writers including the Carnegie Medal and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Amongst over 120 wonderful stories published across her lifetime, a light and short book published this year (after her passing away on July 23, 2012) caught my attention and has a wonderful message to offer children and adults alike.
In Footsteps Through the Fog, five children go for a walk to the beach. Anthea is blind but is keen to accompany the others despite one child’s protest that she should stay home “…because she can’t see.” When heavy fog sets in, the children become frightened and lose their way. It is up to Anthea to guide them safely through the fog using her well developed sense of smell, touch and hearing.
With my own children, I played a memory game with them where they had to shut their eyes and recall different colors and features in the room. And then they had to smell, hear and touch different items in a bag. Even just listening to the sounds of silence is a good way to slow children down and encourage all their senses and imagination. It is refreshing to be able to show children it is not all about dvds, televisions, and apps in what is often a visually over-stimulated culture.
Apart from this, it is just an enjoyable read. We are walked through a village to and from a beach on a foggy day. It feels like we are really there when the character Anthea is listening to all the sounds as they walk along. Who else but Margaret Mahy would be able so skilfully to portray the different water sounds: “….the boom of the sea on the sand and the chatter of the creek tumbling down to meet the sea.” The trees are “whispering secrets to each other.” We are shown how Anthea’s brothers and sisters appreciate her “stories”, which are really just a different perspective to the children’s own.
This book is a short story great for reading aloud or individually and would be able to be read aloud at one sitting. Children aged 5-9 years will be eager to turn the page or listen to find out whether the children make it home safely through the fog.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.