Valerie lives with her rich Italian father and American mother in a beautiful Italian house. One afternoon she slips away from her governess in the park to see her favourite statue, Cherubino, the boy on the dolphin. Imagine her surprise when the statue comes to life.
Shirley was born in West Kirby, near Liverpool, and studied fashion and dress design at Liverpool Art School, before continuing her studies at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford. She then embarked on a career as a freelance illustrator in London, where she still lives today. She illustrated other writers' work, including Noel Streatfeild, Alison Uttley, Ian Seraillier, Margaret Mahy and notably Dorothy Edwards's My Naughty Little Sister series. Shirley began to write and draw her own picture books when her children were young. Her first book - Lucy and Tom's Day - was published in 1960, and she followed it with, among others, Dogger and the Alfie series. Shirley Hughes has won the Other Award, the Eleanor Farjeon Award, and the Kate Greenaway Medal for Illustration twice, for Dogger in 1977 and for Ella's Big Chance in 2003. In 2007 Dogger was voted the public's favourite Greenaway winner of all time. Shirley received an OBE in 1999 for services to Children's Literature, and is the first recipient of Booktrust's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tiny pen-and-ink drawings sparkle in the margins of this meandering fantasy about a lonely girl and a statue that springs to life. Hughes (Stories by Firelight) is a master of expressive line: awkward Valerie, her befuddled governess and a parade of 1920s dandies cavort hilariously in spot art accompanying the text. Unfortunately, less forceful, sketchy Italian landscapes predominate, and the story gets maudlin. The statue boy, Cherubino, is the son of a sea god; he has inexplicably been turned to stone. Come to life when Valerie whispers she loves him, he is thrown in an orphanage, then rescued by Valerie's socialite mother and put to work in the garden. On a seashore holiday, he runs away. Nobody but Valerie cares, and she is heartbroken. Cherubino returns one night to tell her he must pursue life as a sea god, and proclaims his love with an ungodly lack of eloquence: "By the way, sea gods can love humans sometimes, you know. Now and again‘every thousand years or so. A very unusual human, that is." Then he is gone. And by most readers, he won't be missed. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)
Gr 1-4‘In this overlong picture book, Valerie, the lonely child of wealthy, busy parents, awakens the statue of a boy in the garden behind her old Italian home. He is her only friend, and she names him Cherubino. The next day the statue is gone, but a naked boy is laughing in the gardens and Valerie instantly recognizes him. Cherubino is sent to an orphanage, nearly wastes away, and is rescued by Valerie's mother, who takes him home to be the gardener's boy. Cherubino tells Valerie he is the son of a sea god, born thousands of years before to a human mother in a fertile part of North Africa. When Valerie tells him the area is now a desert, he flies into a fury and is determined to return to the sea. When the family goes to the seaside Cherubino escapes and stirs up a huge storm. Weeks later he returns and tells Valerie that he must go to be a god of the sea and protect the wild places, promising that someday they will meet again. Hughes combines lush vibrant paintings with ink drawings throughout this romantic, nostalgic book. While the illustrations capture the Italian landscape, the characters are flat and unbelievable‘Cherubino has little more life as a boy than he did as a statue. Readers will long for the warmth and charm of Hughes's fine books for younger readers; they spring to life while this one remains cold and remote.‘Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library
-A storybook with echoes of Frances Hodgson Burnett. . .-
"A storybook with echoes of Frances Hodgson Burnett. . ." --Kirkus Reviews