I’ve got a big head. I don’t mean that I’m full of my own self-importance. Rather, that my head is physically quite large. I know this because…
1) I can’t wear hats. As my Aussie Mum would put it… all hats on me look like “a pimple on a pumpkin”.
2) When I was a little nipper I got the trainee toilet seat caught around my big head and my dad had to saw it off (don’t ask).
3) Birds just can’t seem to avoid it.
It’s like my big planet head has some sort of magnetic pull for birds. I’ve been hit in the head by my feathered friends half a dozen times… once by a rainbow lorikeet. The poor thing was compelled to fly through the back window of our car, straight into my head. It was a true feat of physics in motion, as the car was doing 40 miles an hour at the time. The first the driver knew of the bird-head collision was the plume of colourful feathers that went off like fireworks.
So all of this means my big head and I haven’t got a great track record or affinity for birds. So I wouldn’t naturally reach for a book of the avian variety. Let’s just call it PTBHCS. Post Traumatic Bird Head Collision Stress. But then ‘A Home for Gully’ by Jo Clegg and Lalalimola flapped onto my desk and changed everything.
Gully’s a plucky city seagull in dinky red boots and a teal woolly scarf. He lives in the park, but every morning the groundskeeper sweeps his twiggy home away. So every night poor Gully has to build it again. One morning Fetch, a good natured but scruffy sort of sausage dog, bounds over with Gully’s stick and learns of the poor seagull’s plight. After a quick powwow with his 412 fleas, he vows to help Gully find a new home. One that won’t get swept away and where Gully’s feet are warm, feathers are dry and tummy is full. They venture into the big smoke and roll up at Hotel de Swanky Pants. But they’re not welcome there. They meet a haughty, street-smart cat named Madison and two become three. The trio venture on through the city to the library where happily, three become four with the addition of Zachary, “a clever-but-not-at-all-dull sort of a rat”. He’s wearing a bow tie, bowler hat and glasses. Nice. The foursome weave through the busy city streets, intent on finding Gully a home. Where they go and whether they succeed is for you to discover inside the pages of this glorious book.
I’m fast becoming a huge fan of Oxford University Press’ picture book offering. So many of their latest titles are fresh, sassy and brimming with feeling, without being overly sentimental. Jo Clegg’s character descriptions are just fab. A “don’t-touch-me-but-underneath-I’m-nice sort of cat”, tells you everything you need to know about her tabby. And like so many excellent writers, Jo gets you really pulling for her characters in very few words. This story’s really very heart warming (and arguably hugely relevant) because who doesn’t want, or deserve, a place to call home? And what makes home, home? Family of course.
“… more than anything, Gully wished they could be his pizza-eating, water-splashing, raggle-taggle sort of a family.”
Lalalimola’s illustrations will have you pouring over every page. From traffic jams, wrought iron street lamps and hotel lobbies to newsagent stands and a pizzeria, it feels oh so vintage New York. And in true big-city fashion, we catch a glimpse into the lives of the many people living there. From the little girl sprawled on the floor of the library exclaiming ‘Best story ever’ to the father and son bounding out of the Pet Shop with a cat. I just love every spread.
A Home for Gully is a funny, feel-good picture book about a feathery friend yearning for family. I’ll never look at a seagull the same way again.