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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)
Secret of the Magic Pearl (The)
by Elisa Sabatinelli
Age Range: 6-8
Hector, the narrator of the story, dreams of becoming a deep-sea diver like his father and grandfather before him. Brought up on the wonderous and mesmerising tales of adventure from his grandfather, in particular, the tale of the “rarest, whitest and purist pearl in the world”, said to live on the seabed offshore near the Marina where his father had a diving centre business until forced to close by the unscrupulous Amedeo Limonta who set up a rival business next door.
On Hector’s eighth birthday his dad has a special treat in store when he tells him that the following Sunday, he will take his first deep-sea dive. Everything changes for Hector when he stumbles upon the rare pearl, but that’s just the beginning of his problems! Hector must heed his grandfather’s words and make the right decision, aware that others also wish to possess the beautiful pearl.
Italian author Elisa Sabatinelli, making her children’s book debut, allows Hector to provide a chatty narrative, adeptly translated by Christopher Turner. Along with a colourful supporting cast of characters such as Hector’s friend Richard, Anselmo, the old sailor who sits in silence staring out to sea, Amedeo Limonta and his daughter Carlotta, this all adds flavour to this delightful book together with the lyrical descriptions of the village where Hector lives and the detailed diving scenes which are vividly described.
Sometimes Hector is in a reflective mood but at others his adventurous spirit is infectious and the story weaves between a mix of reality and fantasy as Hector explains when he says he lives "in a small but ancient village where one day time decided to stop for a cup of tea and never got started again."
Italian artist Iacopo Bruno’s intricate brightly hued illustrations are stunning and the hand-drawn chapter headings and labelled vignettes all add to the rich palette of vibrant colours. At the front of the book, there is a double-page spread of international maritime signal flags together with the associated codes used to communicate with ships. There is also a double-page spread of detailed artwork of a diving suit and at the back of the book a lovely spread of Hector’s village.
The Secret of the Magic Pearl is a welcome addition to the chapter book genre with its blend of a refreshingly unique story and luscious artwork.