Jemmy Button, called Orundicello by his family, lived happily on a Terra fel Fuego island until the day when he was bought from his parents for the cost of one pearly button. Transported to Victorian England to be transformed from a wild child into an English gentleman, he was educated and introduced to middle-class manners. During his stay, Jemmy even attracted the attention of the King and Queen.
Some years later he was returned to his home island (coincidentally on the same ship as Charles Darwin who wanted to study him in his native habitat), in the hope that he would spread his knowledge of Victorian civilisation amongst the natives. Delighted to be home, Jemmy immediately removed his clothes, relearned his native language and became part of his own culture again.
There is minimal text in this book, which relies on detailed, thoughtful images to convey the story. Despite initial appearances, this is a very complex picture book which introduces issues way beyond its apparent simplicity. It is definitely a book which will provoke discussion and debate about cultural identity, the rights of an individual (particularly a child) and the power of a dominant culture which can disregard both issues in pursuit of its own agenda.