Released on the 7th of November, this fantastic new series is the perfect way to get children to look at science and the rights of minorities in a new way while following Ree and Henri and their menagerie of animal friends on their adventures, for a few synopsis click here!
Of Dodos and Men
There was a creature trapped in the rock.
Ree ran her fingers over the capital stone, feeling for the shape that lay just under the surface. A fin like a shark. Spindly hind legs like a frog. A beast that inhabited two worlds, walking out of the water to colonize land. Her desire to release it burned in her chest as she took up her chisel. She loved this moment just before she began to carve her picture.
But what were the eyes like? The museum fossils gave no clues. Perched on the scaffolding, Ree looked beneath her at the display case covered with a sheet. Scuffing at a corner with the toe of her boot, she pushed the cotton aside. Exactly as she remembered, the stuffed turtle gazed mournfully up at her. Eyes like that would be perfect for the creature she was carving, she thought, imagining it leaving the tropical sea for the last time.
The dodo perched on the scaffold next to Ree croaked and deposited a dropping on the planks. “Philoponus, behave,” murmured Ree, picking up her mallet, “or do I have to put you back in your pen?”
Her friend, the last known of the species, made a deep grumble before he pecked up a fragment of stone she had already chiselled off. He hated it when she stopped paying full attention to him and concentrated on her craft. “Are you sure you should be eating that?” She asked absent-mindedly. Phil stretched his neck, his long broad beak with its hooked end pointing at the vaulted glass ceiling. He shook himself. Downy grey feather flew.
Ree sneezed. “Idiotic overgrown pigeon. Look, I’ve got to work and you know it.” Setting the wooden handle of the chisel in her palm, she raised the mallet and gave a tap on the well-worn end. The blade cut into the sandstone, releasing a trickle of dust. Her fingertips caressed the gritty surface, wiping it clean. Her father had taught her that each block she worked already had its own ideas about what it should become. She had to ease the picture out, not force it against its will.
The boards creaked as her father, the foreman of the works, approached. A stocky man, nose bent on the bridge, he moved with the even pace of one who knew things should not be rushed. His knees clicked as he crouched beside his daughter.
“How is your project coming along, Ree?”
She took a swig from her water bottle to clear her throat. “Good, Da. I’ve decided to do the animals moving out of the water onto land – you know, like the guides tell visitors?”
“That’s grand.” James Altamira scratched Philoponus’ neck, causing the bird to shiver with delight and lean heavily on the chief stonemason. The dodo really was the most affectionate, if attention-seeking, creature. “But keep your hat on right and tight, darlin’. Lord John and the trustees are making a surprise inspection sometime this week.”
With a sigh, Ree picked up her cap and pulled it down over her ears, tucking her plaits inside. She wanted to cut her hair short but her father insisted she keep it long, ready for the day when she would have to go back to wearing women’s clothes. It was a dickens of a pain though because the dodo thought it was funny to pluck off the cap when she least expected. The dangerous joke had grown very tired. She had given up wearing the cap this morning, trusting that her high position would keep her hidden.
“Don’t even think about it,” she warned Phil, recognising the look in his pale eyes, black pupils dilated. Most people would mistake the expression as wide-eyed innocence. She knew it to be mischief. “You’ll get me into hot water.”