The Puffin Keeper

Michael Morpurgo, illus. by Benji Davies. Puffin Canada, $17.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-7352-7180-7

Striking the tone of a fireside chat in this winning story of an enduring friendship, narrator five-year-old Allen Williams recalls the time he and his mother were rescued from a shipwreck near Cornwall’s Scilly Isles. During the event, the brave, taciturn lighthouse keeper Benjamin Postlethwaite, who rows the boat’s passengers to safety on Puffin Island, makes an indelible impression on the child. Twelve years pass: after a privileged if not always happy upbringing, Allen finally realizes his dream of returning to Puffin Island. His reconnection to Postlethwaite is immediate (“I been expecting you,” the lightkeeper says) and deepens through a shared love of painting and literature (Allen teaches Postlethwaite to read) and the saving of a wounded puffin—the first of many such birds to find shelter on the island. Morpurgo’s (War Horse) spare, deeply felt prose, with undercurrents of the otherworldly, creates an irresistible momentum for this elegant story of the sea and a destiny fulfilled. Davies’s (Snowflake) empathic portraiture of the largely pale-skinned cast, thrilling seascapes, and heart-touching puffins recalls the superb visual storytelling of The Storm Whale. An afterword explains that the novel is an 80th anniversary tribute to Puffin Books. Ages 9–12. Author’s agent: Veronique Baxter, David Higham. Illustrator’s agency: Bright Agency. (Feb.)
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