This story reads like a magical new fairy tale. It’s a gentle story about a sad man, Alberto, who lives in the faraway town of Allora, famous for its flying fish and the many varied colours of its bright houses. Alberto is the coffin maker, and he takes great care in looking after the dead people who are brought to him before burial. He is a kind, sad man, who has been living alone ever since his whole family died in a plague thirty years ago.
One day, he notices that someone is taking food from his kitchen. But when he sets out to catch the thief, he finds that it is just a scared little boy and his companion, a magical bird called Fia. Gradually, Alberto wins the trust of the boy, Tito, and together they learn to be happy again. Tito is in hiding, though, from his brutal father, and there’s a real sense of menace as the danger gets closer and closer.
The town of Allora is vividly and humorously brought to life, with a fine cast of characters such as the nosy neighbours Clara and Rosa, the pompous mayor who is as wide as he is tall, and the baker Enzo who provides triple cream gateaux and strawberry jam.
There’s a tale within a tale, as Alberto reads to Tito in the evenings from a book called The Story of Isola. The story captures their imagination and adds another level of meaning to the narrative, already rich with allusions to fairy tales and legends.
The illustrations make this lyrical story even more beautiful and the message of hope and love rising out of despair and loneliness makes this a satisfying, comforting read.