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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)
Belle and Sebastien: The Child of the Mountains
by Cecile Aubry
Age Range: 9-11
Sèbastien is a child of the mountains: the son of a Gypsy woman who died giving birth to him in the Baou mountain range, he is brought up by César and his grandchildren Angelina and Jean. Born on the same day, Belle is a beautiful white Pyrenean Mountain Dog who has been passed from owner to owner. Neglected and having lost her trust in humans, she escapes one day from a kennel where she is being kept and finds her way to the mountains. Sèbastien and the runaway Belle form a lifelong friendship; he is determined to save her from the wrath of the villagers as they become convinced that Belle is a 'Beast' and a danger to them.
Belle and Sèbastien is a heart-warming and atmospheric novel by Cécile Aubry (1928-2010), a successful French actress who gave up her career in front of the cameras to devote herself to writing children's novels and screenplays. One of the most popular classics from French literature it was first published in 1965 to coincide with the internationally successful television series of the same name for which Aubry wrote the adaptations. This is the first-ever translation into English by Gregory Norminston for Alma Classics.
Aubry takes the reader into the heart of the Alps Maritimes region with her descriptions of the village of Saint-Martin near the Gordolasque river and the vast and dangerous mountain range, together with the well-rounded characters of Cèsar, Jean, Angelina and busy-body Cèlestine, housekeeper to the young kind-hearted doctor Guillaume. Whether it is the strong unbreakable bond of boy and dog, both of whom both are fiercely independent, the petty narrow-mindedness of some villagers, who are fuelled by ignorance and rumours about Belle, or the gentle love affair between Angelina and Guillaume, all permeate the pages to ensure a memorable read.
Norminston's flowing translation combined with the subtle pen-and-ink drawings by Helen Stephens make this a welcome addition to the French classics that are now available in English.