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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly (The)
by Luis Sepulveda
Age Range: 9-11
Covered in oil, Kengah an exhausted Seagull lands on a balcony in the port of Hamburg where Zorba, a big black cat lives. The dying gull manages to lay her final egg while asking Zorba to promise three things: to look after the egg, not to eat the chick once it has hatched and, the most difficult of all – to teach the orphaned baby gull to fly. Zorba is an honourable cat and realises the enormity of the task ahead so he enlists the help of his feline friends – the gregarious resident skinny Italian cat Segretario; the wise and stammering Colonel and the encyclopaedic consulting Einstein. They have a massive task to take on in order to honour the promise made to Kengah and give Lucky, the adopted little seagull, the strength to discover her true nature.
This modern-day fable by Chilean award-winning author Luis Sepúlveda was possibly influenced by his stint of working for years as a crew member on a Greenpeace ship. The book opens with a man-made disaster, highlighting an environmental issue which the sage Colonel pointedly refers to in his conversation with the other cats. "Humans, unfortunately, are unpredictable; often it's with the best intentions that they cause the greatest damage"
The story also demonstrates through the actions of the feline friends that it's okay to be different, highlighted by Zorba in his dialogue with Lucky – "we've learnt to appreciate and respect and love someone who's different from us … it is easy to accept and love those who are like us, but to love someone different is very hard, and you helped us to do that".
The Story of a Seagull and the Cat who Taught her to Fly has been translated into over 40 countries with several film and theatre adaptations. Written in 1996 this is a charming tale is particularly relevant today in the changing world we live in. Sepúlveda's novel contains a message about love and being kind; treating all living things as equals as well as warnings about the damage humans are doing to the world. It's beautifully written and expertly translated by Margaret Sayers Peden with lovely new black and white drawings by acclaimed illustrator Satoshi Kitamura that perfectly capture the comedy and melancholy within Sepúlveda's text in equal measure.
This is a delectable book and one to savour.