What Ever Happened to Milo?
by Claire Bunt
Illustrations by Philip Webb
What Ever Happened to Milo? is a beautifully presented hard cover book positively inviting caress with the fingertips – so silky smooth is the cover, and so entrancing the colours used by Philip Webb in his illustrations. Thus enticed, one turns the pages. The inside covers have delightful sketches of both kitten and seagull in various poses on a pale egg-shell blue background. The illustrations follow the story, one of my favourites being the purposeful Morepork family escorting Milo along a darkened country lane.
Amongst these pictorial delights there are several discrepancies in the yacht drawings which someone familiar with boats would pick up. For instance the kicking strap on the boom of the yacht is tethered to the grab rail on the cabin top instead of to the base of the mast, and on the moored yacht the sail is stowed beneath the boom instead of on top. The colours throughout are beautiful and will surely appeal to all ages.
The narrative is divided into twenty chapters of suitable length for young readers able to cope with chapter books. There is a prologue, written in the first person, explaining why Milo was taken on board the yacht. The main body of the story is written in the third person and relates the adventures Milo had, and the people with whom he came into contact, when he was accidently separated from his owners and had to rely on himself and a seagull friend for sustenance.
The anthropomorphic nature of the tale suggests it is aimed at younger readers though I would be surprised if those same children, reading for themselves, would understand all the words used in the text. Having said that, there can be value in familiarising children with moderately sophisticated language when being read to, thus extending their vocabulary.
I felt some of the phrases used are somewhat dated and there is some harshness in the dialogue particularly when the characters are addressing each other and employing ‘put downs’, while admitting some of these are what keeps the story moving. Mention of the breed of the kitten, a Birman-Ragdoll, seems rather superfluous in a book for young children. Milo has lots of adventures, aided by Solly the seagull, in his search for food and shelter during the three months he was lost.
Taken as a whole the book has the potential to be an adventurous, enjoyable and possibly breath-taking read for the right age group and I wish it well in its aim to raise funds for UNICEF NZ.
Author: Claire Bunt. Illustrator: Philip Webb
Publisher: Arthur Publishing House
Available: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.thebestlittlebookstore.co.nz; Paper Plus Onehunga
Claire and Philip not only make culture-friendly readers for Pacific children, but several thousand dollars earned from sales have benefitted UNICEF.