Some books have such a strong sense of place. Solomon’s Secret, written by Saviour Pirotta and illustrated by Helen Cooper, is one.
It is set in a rather downtrodden neighbourhood. Everything is a little bit worn and dingy. But there is magic behind the everyday exterior. We meet Solomon, and learn about his extraordinary secret:
Solomon is a little scared of his neighbours, the mysterious Mr and Mrs Zee. There are all kinds of scary stories about them, and the neighbourhood kids like to throw stones at their door:
His parents send him to take some apple tarts to the Zee’s, and they turn out to be quite friendly.
Mr Zee takes Solomon shopping in the back yard. First, he looks among the rhubarb stalks for some unlikely footprints. (Rhubarb leaves are a recurring theme in the drawings). Panda prints. By following the panda prints through the undergrowth in the Zee’s back yard, Mr Zee and Solomon go travelling. The Panda prints lead them to China, where they get some tea. Then they follow some tiger prints that take them to India:
The best place for sweets:
Road runner tracks take them to Mexico, for some pumpkin pies:
And so, Solomon and the Zee’s become good friends. Is Mr Zee really a magician, or is he just a really good storyteller? Maybe they are one and the same thing?