Tim All Alone

GREENAWAY MEDAL WINNER – 1956

Edward Ardizzone, author and illustrator

London: Oxford University Press, 1956

46 pp

3 +

Interests: adventure, ships, ocean, storms, travel


An adventure tale in a truly old-fashioned style – a boy comes home from a long holiday (details not given) to find his home empty, parents gone and a ‘To Let’ sign on the door. And he ships out to sea to find them! This is in the classic child against the world mold – at one point he has to escape from a woman intent on putting him in an orphanage. He works his passage on ships, he wanders seaside towns alone, he survives bad treatment and even a shipwreck.

The illustrations are simple pen and ink/watercolour sketches, but wonderfully evocative. They keep the action at a distance, and seem strangely dispassionate to modern sensibilities (which would dictate a closeup when Tim despairs and starts to cry). Here’s the text when he finds his parents missing:

However, when he had cried a little – and he could not help that – he remembered to say his prayers and felt a little comforted. Then he got up, turned his back on the house and set out on his way once more.

Here’s a strong-willed, independent lad! Along the way he wins friends and allies through his good nature, hard work and kindness. He experiences many travails and adventures until finally a stroke of luck returns him to his parents and the mystery of their disappearance is solved. My favourite illustration shows him sitting with his mother in the cafe just after finding her, sitting on a large book so he can reach the table, holding a cup of tea and calmly telling her about the shipwreck he’s just survived – his talk bubble reads simply:

    The flames were tremendous

I mean, he’s still damp from dragging himself from the ocean! Such aplomb!

Tim as a main character is a classic adventure story hero – there’s no character arc, in that he doesn’t learn or change, he is simply a boy reacting to the ever-changing winds of fate in the best way he can.

In conclusion: It’s a lovely adventure story in a really free style, starring an admirably brave and earnest young boy. For anyone who loves ships, or adventure stories. This is the kind of book that will lead someday to Treasure Island or Captains Courageous.

One of a series of books about Tim:

Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (the first adventure)
Tim and Charlotte
Tim in Danger
Tim’s Friend Towser
Tim and Ginger
Tim to the Lighthouse

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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