When the first sentence of a story is “The sun rose like a porcupine…”, you know that is not going to be an ordinary tale. Charlie Sutcliffe’s Zubert is a delightfully off-kilter story of a boy living in London. Zubert’s London is even more madcap and irreverent that the real London, though it seems that even slightly magical creatures are subject to hotel inspections.
While Zubert waits for his florist mother, he comes across the panicked spinglefranks that run the Savoy hotel: the hotel inspectors are coming and there is a menagerie of animals that must be hidden. Zubert offers his help, and once his pair of wings has been safely secured, he goes about hiding the octopus in the swimming pool and luring monkeys into closets.
Sutcliffe’s story will appeal to children with the ease in which this fantastical world merges with the real one. Zubert is a fun character that children will enjoy following, and the creatures that populate his world could be real or could simply come from a wonderfully active imagination. From the way the story abruptly switches from ‘real’ to ‘magical’, one assumes it is the latter. The illustrations are busy and detailed, and perfect for any child who loves exploring every part of a picture. Sutcliffe’s style is unique and juxtaposes the matte backdrop of London with the bright, pastel colours of the extraordinary. Readers will wish Sutcliffe’s London were one we could move to.