Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mister Cleghorn's Seal

Mister Cleghorn's Seal

Judith Kerr
For ages 7 to 9
HarperCollins Children's Books, 2015   ISBN: 978-0008157302

For years Mr. Cleghorn ran a little shop where he sold newspapers, sweets, stationary, and other necessities. Not long ago he sold his shop and now he is at a loose end and has no idea how to fill his days. He is even beginning to regret selling his shop when a letter from his cousin William arrives. William invites Mr. Gleghorn to visit him and his family, and since Mr. Cleghorn is bored and has nothing to do with his time he gladly accepts.

A few days later Mr. Cleghorn arrives at the coast where he is warmly welcomed into William’s household. Soon after he arrives, Tommy, William’s son, takes Mr. Cleghorn to see a baby seal that spends its days on a rock in a nearby inlet. Every day the mother seal leaves the baby so that she can go fishing.

As the days go by Mr. Cleghorn has a grand time with his family, and he also continues to visit the seal, which he thinks is charming. One day he notices that the baby is looking listless and sad. It is also thinner. When he tells William about the seal he learns that some adult seals were killed a few nights ago. Perhaps the baby’s mother was one of them. Mr. Cleghorn is very upset when he hears that the baby will not survive without its mother and that they may have to “put it out of its misery.”
A day later Mr. Cleghorn, Tommy, and William go to check on the pup. The poor little creature is clearly very distressed and hungry. William is preparing to shoot the little animal when Mr. Cleghorn stops him. He announces that he will take care of the seal. There is a zoo near where he lives and the seal can go and live there. When William asks him how he will transport the animal, Mr. Cleghorn says that he will take it on the train.

Capturing the pup is not hard at all and after a few false starts Mr. Cleghorn figures out how to feed it. He then has to find a way to get it back home. In the end the seal is settled in an old tin bath and the animal and its new ‘mother’ travel back to town in the train’s luggage van. When they arrive at their destination is it nighttime and so Mr. Cleghorn cannot take the seal to the zoo. Mr. Cleghorn is going to have to take the seal home for the night, and he is going to have to be careful because animals are not allowed in the building where he lives. If the janitor finds out about the seal, well, suffice it to say that Mr. Cleghorn will get into a lot of trouble.

When Mr. Cleghorn visits the zoo the next day he finds out that the janitor is the least of his problems. The zoo is in a bad state and he cannot bear to think of taking the seal pup there. What on earth is he going to do?

This wonderful tale is loosely based on a true story that the author’s father told her. Apparently he once rescued a baby seal and kept it in his apartment for a while, just as Mr. Cleghorn did. Children will be delighted to see how the story unfolds and how Mr. Cleghorn, with the help of a new friend, tries to find a home for the seal he has come to care for.