The White Umbrella by Brian Sewell was Children’s Book of the Week in the Saturday Times. Alex O’Connell gives the following review:
‘Brian Sewell has published his first children’s book at the age of 83, written while recuperating from an operation While nobody would wish illness on the art critic – not even those painters who have felt the sharp end of his nib – that bedrest has produced a beautifully written book, which should become a classic.
It begins in Peshawar where Mr B, “a wiry little man of fifty with white hair”, sees a wounded donkey by the roadside while making a documentary. When his director refuses to take the creature with them, Mr B ditches the group, taking only a small bag and a white umbrella, and pledges to walk home to London with the donkey, whom he names Pavlova after the ballerina.
Mr B’s journey takes him through Pakistan, Persia (as he calls Iran), Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Germany, France and on to England and Pavlova is a delight. The pair see off a heroin trafficker and otherwise meet kindness: the horsey wife of the British ambassador in Turkey is terrific, as is Hector, a bibliopole who hatches a plan to get them through customs.
Back in London, Pavlova lives in Mr B’s stable and pays weekly trips to the supermarket. The end – which I will not spoil – is deeply moving.
Sewell does not write down to his audience, and this may not be to the taste of every modern child. There are footnotes on Dürer and Bellini and interesting passages on the history of rugs. It would be wonderful read aloud en famille on holiday. Just pray the kids don’t see a donkey by the roadside…’