Monday, October 4, 2021

The Secret of the Magic Pearl by Elisa Sabatinelli, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, translated by Christopher Turner

The Secret of the Magic Pearly by Elisa Sabatinelli,
illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, translated by Christopher Turner
Red Comet Press, 2021, 92 pages
Set in a seaside village somewhere on the Italian coast, our young narrator Hector tells readers that he comes from a family of deep-sea divers, and he cannot wait until his eight birthday so he make his very first dive. He also tells us that his hero is the red watch cap wearing Jaques Cousteau, hence, Hector's red cap. He has grown up listening to his grandfather's stories about the sea, most of which came from his imagination. The one exception is the story about the Pearl. The Pearl lives in the sea, and is the "rarest, whitest, and purest pearl in the world. A pearl that can light up a whole room." (pg 5)

Hector's family had always lived in the Marina, a place that attracts tourists and offers lots of sea-side attractions and things to do, but they were pushed out by a shady businessman named Amedeo Limonta and his complex called Rivadoro, charging tourists less money that anyone else for dives and boat rides. Limonta has a daughter named Carlotta, and Hector's best friend Richard has a big crush on her. 

Finally, Hector's birthday arrives and after cobbling together a deep-sea diving suit for himself, he and his father head to the sea. Sure enough, on his first dive, Hector discovers the Pearl and brings it home. Soon, it is an attraction drawing tourists, newspapermen, and even television reporters. One visitor even asks to be alone with the Pearl, but after his visit, Hector notices the Pearl begins to lose it luminescence. It appears to be dying. But why? Now, everyone thinks Hector pulled a fast one on them, accusing him of lying to them. Hector decides the Pearl needs to return to the sea to hopefully get back some of its magic. It doesn't take long to figure out what has happened, but if the lone visitor has taken the real Pearl and left a fake substitute in its place, how can Hector return the real Pearl to the sea? 

Hector narrates his story in simple declarative but very expressive sentences, which may sound boring but is far from it. In fact, it allows him to smoothly and seamlessly introduce family past and present, friends, and enemies, and the part they all play in the mystery of the Pearl. 

Since the setting seems to take place somewhere between reality and fantasy, it just stands to reason that the timing of the story is somewhere between long ago and today all at once. But perhaps Hector explains it best when he says he lives " a small but ancient village where one day time decided to stop for a cup of tea and never got started again." (pg. 69)

There is so much to be culled from this book besides a good story. Right from the start, there is a two page spread of maritime signal flags, alphabet and numbers, used for signaling other ships. Each chapter is introduced with the chapter number using these flags, so you begin to recognize them pretty quickly.

But wait, there's more. Not only are readers treated to the nautical flags, there is also a 2-page spread of the parts of an old-timey diving suit, the kind not many kids might be familiar with.

So you can see that this is definitely a book to spend time with, not just reading but thoroughly combing through the illustrations, relishing all the details from beginning to end. Done in a colorful palette of nautical colors, the full page illustrations are clear and sharp, and completely harmonize and extend the story and there are lots of colorful spot illustrations throughout the book as well. 

After readers are done being charmed by Hector's story, they can download an activity kit utilizing the nautical flags HERE

The Secret of the Magic Pearl is a chapter book that combines past and present in a magical story. It will enchant readers in the same way that stories by Kate DiCamillo does. 

The Secret of the Magic Pearl will be available October 12, 2021.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was gratefully received from Red Comet Press and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this wonderful review. We are so glad you enjoyed it and really appreciate the support for this special book. Red Comet Press


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