Title: Belle and Sébastien: The Child of the Mountains
Author: Cécile Aubry
Translator: Gregory Norminton
Illustrator: Helen Stephens
Publication Date: 2018 (first published in 1965)
Publisher: Alma Classics
Format: Paperback|189 pages
Belle and Sébastien: The Child of the Mountains is the heart-warming story of Sébastien, the son of a Gypsy woman who passed away giving birth to him, and Belle who lost trust in humans after being betrayed. Born on the same day but in different places, they meet at the age of six in Saint-Martin. The seemingly strong and unbreakable bond between the boy and Belle is challenged throughout the novel by the narrow-mindedness of certain villagers, rumours and numerous preconceptions. Belle is an enormous white Pyrenean Mountain Dog that the villagers perceive as a risk to their safety and peace, but is she really as dangerous as people profess her to be?
Cécile Aubry takes the reader into the heart of the Alps with her realistic depiction of Saint-Martin, a mountainside village in France near the Gordolasque river. I absolutely adore the description of the scenery; the author doesn’t focus, like most writers, only on the visuals of a scene, but she rather uses all senses to fully convey the setting. She uses description in such a manner that you can almost touch, hear and smell everything without being distracted from the main point of view. The lovely descriptions and heart-felt moments that Sébastien shares with Belle make the novel a memorable read.
I was gripped from the very beginning of the novel, the very first chapters instantly sparked my interest and I was eager to find out what will happen with the protagonists. The well-rounded characters are wonderfully written, but Belle was by far my favourite one. She is definitely not the typical animal character with not much personality and few identifying features, but a character with a complex thought process and numerous anxieties and peculiarities.
Overall, I really enjoyed this beautiful story about friendship, loyalty and prejudice and, even though it’s a children’s book, I’m sure readers of all ages would love it. I highly recommend Belle and Sébastien: The Child of the Mountains to anyone who loves classic children’s books and wants to read something that appeals to their sense of wonder, awe and curiosity.
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