17th March 2016
That only those who dare may fly..
What can I say about this delightful book that will do the story justice? Firstly, the cover, it makes me smile every time I look at it. The expression on both the seagull and the cat's face is just a real tonic for a gloomy day. The book is interspersed with beautiful black and white line drawings which really brings the story to life. And what of the story, well, I started this on a dark afternoon when the clouds were rollicking by at top speed and there was a distinct hint of rain in the air, but all that really didn't matter, as within minutes of picking up the book, I was immersed in a story of dedication, bravery and the heroism of keeping one’s word when all the odds are stacked against you.
Kengah is a seagull, who caught up in a dreadful oil spill, knows that she is dying but makes a mammoth effort to lay her one little blue-speckled white egg, in the hope that her chick, once hatched will have a chance of survival, and that's where Zorba, the big fat black cat from the port of Hamburg, comes into the story, when Kengah, with all hope gone, begs Zorba to care for her, as yet unhatched, chick, imploring Zorba to teach it to fly.
“Then Zorba knew that the poor gull was not just delirious: she was totally mad.”
What then follows is a story about a cast of intelligent and sensitive cats who learn that life can offer many challenges and none more so than the care of an orphaned seagull, but rise to the challenge they most certainly do. The cats are delightful, there's Segretario and Colonel who live at Cuneo’s Italian restaurant and eat Lasagne al Forno for breakfast, Einstein with his love of books and learning, who despairs when he can’t find the page he needs in his encyclopedia because the rats have eaten it, Seven Seas, an ocean-going cat who wears a made-to-measure oilskin, Angelina, the beautiful cat, and of course, there’s Zorba, the big fat black cat, who with poignant sensitivity sets out, with a little help from his friends, to teach a baby seagull, called Lucky, to fly.
My thoughts about this lovely story, well, it’s bright and beautiful, sad and funny, wonderful in its simplicity and alive with curiosity. Beautifully written, expertly translated from its original Spanish and charmingly illustrated. Without doubt, it’s a special little book which will appeal to readers of all ages, not just for children, who I am sure will also love it, but also for adults who like escaping from the mayhem into the magical world of children’s stories.
Best Read with....a nice bowl of milk and a packet of Squid flavoured Dreamies ( Jaffa's suggestion)
About the Author
Born in Santiago, Chile, Luis Sepúlveda is the multi-award-winning author of many adult novels and stories for children. Politically and socially engaged, he was persecuted and jailed by the Pinochet regime and worked for years as a crew member on a Greenpeace ship. The Story ofa Seagull and The Cat Who Taught Her to Fly has been translated in over 40 countries with several film and theatre adaptations.
About the Illustrator
Satoshi Kitamura was born in Japan and has lived in the UK for many years, where his books have won many prizes, including the Mother Goose Award (for Angry Arthur) and the Smarties Prize (for Me and My Cat). Nowadays, Satoshi is back in Japan where he studies Spanish in his spare time, and is working his way through Sepulveda’s oeuvre in the original.
My thanks to the publishers Alma Books for my copy of this book to review.