It’s a No-Money Day by Kate Milner

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Published by Barrington Stoke, 2019.

It’s a No-Money Day is a touching story about a single mom and her young daughter. Despite working very hard, mom is still struggling for money and they have to resort to using a food bank. It’s a very sad indictment of our times that a picture book needs to be written about such a subject but the reality is that food banks have become a vital part of so many people’s lives. Last year a record 1.6m food bank parcels were given to people by the Trussell Trust.

It’s a No-Money Day sensitivity handles its subject matter. It’s told in the first person from the point of view of the little girl which really helps to build empathy among young readers. The book has many poignant scenes: the mother’s face as she looks at her empty kitchen shelves, the long queue of dejected people waiting outside the food bank, and the daughter sitting sadly beside the empty “everything-else jar”. This is the jar for any leftover money once the bills have been paid. If it ever gets full, mom has promised her daughter a kitten.

The book doesn’t shy away from difficult emotions and depicts the mom’s embarrassment at needing hand-outs from a food bank, and the worry and sadness caused by living on the breadline.

Also striking is the mother and daughter’s resilience and resourcefulness; they find plenty of fun things to do on no money days – trips to the library, trying on clothes at the charity shop, and making a pretend kitten out of mom’s dressing gown. The “maybe-one-day game” that they play as they picture all the things they’d like if they had some extra money offers a glimpse of hope.

The love between mother and daughter is beautifully portrayed. At breakfast time when the cereal box is empty, the little girl has the last piece of toast innocently declaring, “Luckily Mum isn’t hungry.” Adults reading the story will recognise and appreciate the mother’s act of self-sacrifice for her daughter.

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The sad circumstances of this family’s life are reflected in the illustrations: the subdued colour palette, the peeling wallpaper, the missing kitchen tiles and the plug in electric heater.

The book doesn’t end cosily with the little girl getting the kitten she longs for. In real life there is no magic wand. However, she and her mom do go to bed with full stomachs and they hold onto hope that the future might be brighter.

It’s a No-Money Day is a moving and important story for our times.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 3+

Thank you to Barrington Stoke for sending me a digital version of this book for review.

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