Diane Ewen is British illustrator, born in Walsall, in the West Midlands. She has always been in love with art and graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a B.A. Honours Degree in illustration.
Diane likes to create illustrations that are hand-drawn in pencil before painting in watercolour and acrylics prior to embellishing them using Photoshop but she also enjoys working directly on the computer screen creating her designs; constantly developing her style as she progresses.
She likes the fact that illustrations are the first things that entice the reader to engage with a book and is inspired by the use of vibrant colour. Her debut into publishing was the illustration of the “Pretty Poodle Parlour,” published by Orion and written by Angela MCallister.
“This newly published picture book version of Coming To England, tells the true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin’s journey from Trinidad to London, as part of the Windrush generation. The book is a mix of colourful illustrations and a deeply personal account of a 10-year-old Floella adjusting to her new home in a not-so-friendly Britain. It’s a charming book that deftly moves through a myriad of emotions, tackling important topics but crafted so even the youngest readers can understand and enjoy the tale.” ‘Coming To England’ by Floella Benjamin, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.
When the new picture book from my favourite 1980s Play School presenter arrived I must admit I did a little bit of a happy dance! As a fan of the original ‘Coming to England’ I am just so delighted that this version has been created aimed at a younger audience. Not least because my own book loving 6 year old has grandparents that tell a similar story to that of Dame Floella. The text is simplified for its new readers but all the key ingredients remain, beautifully and sensitivity bringing to life the highs and lows of the Windrush generation’s experiences. We are taken on a journey from the lush island of Trinidad to the cold Southampton shores of England with Dame Floella’s family.
We begin at the table on the sunny veranda of the family home. Dardie is reading the Trinidad Guardian as he sips his tea, happy faces and a delicious breakfast spread around him. He sees and responds to a newspaper advert inviting workers to England. Hopes and dreams pull him to the Motherland with the promise of a better life for his family. A year later Marmie joins him and leaves the children in the Caribbean with their aunt.
The day arrives when the children are called to join Marmie and Dardie and the excitement is unreal. The four siblings pack their best clothes and board the huge ship together and spend fifteen days at sea getting up to all sorts of mischief! Questions and dreams of the unknown buzzing around in their heads.
The realities of their new life aren’t quite as expected and England takes a bit of adjusting to – the weather, unkind people and cramped living conditions make it difficult to settle. But after a while things begin to improve. Dame Floella has even managed to achieve one of her childhood dreams – you’ll have to read it to find out what it was!
Diane Ewen’s illustrations expertly bring this true story to life, the family, the surroundings and the emotions are portrayed in picture perfect detail. The pages are an explosion of colour and character – perfect for little people (and big) to get lost in!
Now I’ve managed to wrestle my copy back from my youngest, this book will be coming to live in my classroom so that Dame Floella’s story can be shared and talked about with as many little people as possible!
We are coming to the end of Black History Month 2020 and I wanted to showcase Coming to England: An Inspiring True Story Celebrating the Windrush Generation written by Baroness Floella Benjamin and illustrated by Diane Ewen.
Floella shares her experience of coming over from Trinidad to England as a young child. We see her initial excitement when she thought she might meet the queen, and the disappointment when she had to stay behind in Trinidad for a time…
When the move to England finally happened, the queen wasn’t waiting to greet her, in fact England was not as welcoming as she had expected.
Reading this book to my daughters was incredibly emotional for me as my great-grandad made a similar journey from Jamaica to England in the 1930s. For me, the most powerful page was when Floella explained what it was like going to school in England, something picture book age children can really relate to. At first, the children weren’t very nice to her at school, but overtime they’ve become friends.
Diane’s illustrations are fantastic. She has brought this true story to life. Each page is packed with authentic details about life in Trinidad and Windrush England.
Floella and Diane have told this real-life experience with vibrant energy, using relatable emotions for children. From the excitement of meeting the queen, to disappointments, surprises and also friendship and living out your dreams. This is a book that I hope schools and guardians will view as a book that all children, from all backgrounds, can read and enjoy ALL YEAR ROUND.
Coming to England is ‘The true story of Dame Floella Benjamin’ who moved to England from Trinidad when she was a child. I have vivid memories of watching Floella on Play School when I was younger and it’s fascinating to read her ‘…inspiring true story celebrating the Windrush generation’.
The Story: When Floella’s Dardie saw a newspaper advert he packed his suitcase and his saxophone and travelled to England. At school Floella learnt about The British Empire and dreamt of meeting The Queen. A year later Floella’s mother joined her father and took two of her siblings. Finally ten year old Floella and her brothers and sisters could make the boat trip and be reunited with their parents.
Living in England wasn’t how Floella had imagined it to be, the family didn’t have a big house and her new classmates had never seen children with Floella’s skin colour before. But gradually the family settled and one day Floella’s childhood dream came true!
Floella’s story starts in Trinidad where she lived in a happy house with her large family, went to school and to the market to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. The seasons came and went as they thought of Dardie in England then waited for Marmie to send for them.
London was cold and unwelcoming after the warmth and vibrancy of The Caribbean and, although the family were together, Floella talks about how the reality of arriving wasn’t as nice as she thought.
This candid autobiography is told through simple language and Diane Ewen’s amazing illustrations. Floella talks about how she felt at each stage of the transition to England and the hopes and dreams that she brought with her. Her story is positive, optimistic and the family’s love and support for each other shines through. But while Floella doesn’t dwell too much on the difficulties they had when they moved in England she does acknowledge how unwelcome her family felt in some situations and the negative attitudes of some of the people that they met.
The illustrations are colourful and vibrant, exactly how I remember Floella when I watched her on children’s television. We love the pictures of the children making mischief on the boat and the family pillow fight, they both exude love and togetherness. It’s also fabulous to see the picture of Southampton’s Royal Pier on the cover (now one of our favourite Indian restaurants!).
The glimpse into Caribbean life is fascinating, particularly the changes in seasons and the daily trip to the market. We didn’t know what breadfruit was so we looked it up…
Living in cold rainy England must have been so different for Floella but one day her childhood dream came true…
It’s fascinating to read Floella’s story, hers was just one of the families that responded to a newspaper advert inviting them to England. The story led us to read more about the Windrush generation and provides a great stimulus for talking about a significant period in UK post war history.
‘Beloved children’s broadcaster Floella Benjamin has, aged 71, turned her 1995 Windrush generation memoir into a picture book with vivid artwork by Diane Ewen. Coming to England (Macmillan) leaps off the page full of hope and personality, much like Benjamin herself, while lightly touching on the distressing aspects of her family’s relocation from Trinidad to London and the challenge of integrating at school. The scenes of home life are particularly moving and, while totally different in style to Jill Murphy’s latest addition to her timeless evocations of domestic life, they capture the same atmosphere of family warmth, connection and just a little bit of chaos.’