Mister Cleghorn's Seal, by Judith Kerr

Mister Cleghorn's Seal (HarperCollins, June 2016) is Judith Kerr's first children's novel in 37 years!  It is a charmer, a book that is especially lovely for reading out loud with a 5 or 6 year old, because it's the sort of story with shifts in direction at just the right sort of places to stop for the night, and because it has friendly, sweet illustrations (lots of the titular baby seal) that are great for sharing with a child.

Mister Cleghorn is bored and at loose ends after selling the store he ran for years and years.  So for the first time he says yes to an invitation to visit family by the ocean.  And there he meets a baby seal, who one of the family's kids has been visiting regularly.  They watch as its mother comes to feed and tend it...but then one day the mother seal doesn't come.  The fishermen have been shooting seals, who they see as competition for the fish.  And without a mother, the baby seal will starve.

So Mister Cleghorn decides to take it back to town with him, and find a home for it in the local zoo.

Travelling with the seal goes surprisingly well, but of course the zoo is closed when they get to town.  So Mister Cleghorn brings the seal home, and installs it in the bathtub, with the water dripping to keep it happy...and this results in him meeting the neighbor downstairs, when the tub floods! 

She's a very nice person, and fond of animals, and becomes his ally in seal keeping.  And he needs an  ally, for the zoo has fallen on bad times, with shiftless, careless owners, and it's no place for a young seal.  Mister Cleghorn's apartment isn't great either...especially since the caretaker forbids any animals at all.

Happily, a solution is found that makes everyone happy.  It's a really nice ending that solves the problem of the zoo as well, and includes Mister Cleghorn and his neighbor falling in love.  So it's a good story, nicely told, with just enough tension to keep it going, and without so much emphasis on the death of the seal mother to upset the sensitive young (although they might be, a little).

One reason I'm happy to recommend it is that I think it's good for kids to see old folks in stories having interesting lives, and trying new things, and starting new adventures, and falling in love.  It makes a refreshing counter-narrative to the stereotypes of old age!  Because it is about an "old" man, it might not appeal immediately to the independent reader, but if that reader is an animal fan, the charming seal drawings will suck them in....

So all in all, a pleasure!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a sweet book. Thanks for the review.


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