Come By Chance, by Madeline Winch

Bertha was alone.
She had walked and walked
and was far from anywhere.

Bertha, with her sensible shoes and walking stick, has walked many miles alone. She finds an abandoned house on a hill and makes it her home. She works hard for many days and her final touch is a sign Come By Chance that she affixes to the front door, so that all may know they are welcome. Then, she sits by the fire on a dark, stormy night. One by one, animals seek to join her in the still warmth of the house. Bertha has found company and they have found shelter. Together they see the winter out. When Spring comes, most of the animals depart. But Bertha, and the one remaining animal know that winter, and their friends, will return.

Come By Chance is a very simple and gentle text. Most openings have no more than one or two sentences. The illustrations are mostly full- or double-page except the vignettes where the transformation of the house takes place. Where the text describes the storm outside, the illustrations show the arrival one-by-one of frightened and bedraggled animals. Much of the action is shown in the illustrations and combines with the spare text to offer a gentle story of caring and companionship. Bertha is clearly capable of being alone, but enjoys the company that arrives by chance. Come By Chance was first published in 1988 and is here republished by Walker Books in their ‘classics’ series. Included are notes from Maurice Saxby and some early sketches for Bertha and other characters. Madeleine Winch shares her inspiration for and the development of the story. A delightful story recommended for young children and anyone who loves picture books.

Come by Chance

Come By Chance, Madeleine Winch
Walker Books 2009
ISBN: 9781921150845

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author