The Puffin Keeper

Puffin Canada. Feb. 2022. 112p. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9780735271807.
Gr 3-6–Tossed into each other’s paths by a turbulent sea, a stout-hearted lighthouse keeper and a young boy make an indelible mark on each other’s lives in this stirring tale. Benjamin Postlethwait lives a solitary life as the keeper of a lighthouse on Puffin Island off the coast of England. Despite being named for the birds who once inhabited it in droves, Puffin Island has not been home to puffins for many years. One stormy night, Ben heroically rescues a group of 30 seafarers, among them a young boy named Allen Williams. Taking shelter in the warmth of the lighthouse, the boy is enthralled by the keeper’s paintings lining the walls. Upon the boy’s departure, Ben gifts Allen one of his paintings, and with this gift, an artist is born. Allen and his mother continue on their journey to the mainland, where Allen’s subsequent childhood years are rocky, buoyed only by his passion for art. At the conclusion of his schooling, Allen finds himself compelled to return to Puffin Island—and there his friendship with Ben is cemented in the rescue of a lone puffin. Thus begins many years of tutelage, friendship, and the return of puffins to Puffin Island. Morpurgo’s narrative is propelled by small revelatory moments between characters: the gift of a painting, the rescue of a bird, a boy teaching an old man how to read. This work, while melancholy in parts, will certainly appeal to young readers, especially fans of historical fiction. Davies has a keen ability to render tempestuous and placid scenes with equal emotion. His digital illustrations’ vintage, painterly quality perfectly suit the text.
VERDICT Whether on land or at sea, this tale of lasting friendship delivers adventure and charm in spades. A welcome addition to most collections.

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