Jem and Coral
Introduction to the book by Chantal Heaven
The theme of the book, Jem and Coral by Chantal Heaven is... "A loving heart can help cure the ills of this world." It is a parable about mankind's relationship with the natural world and the need to work with nature in order to protect, nurture and maintain the world's fragile eco-system. The novel is aimed at those aged 12 to 18 - plus all those adults who are still young at heart - and looks at the challenges of youth and the fight to preserve nature in an ever more complex and inhumane world. Help in that fight could come from some unexpected quarters...
Coral was a different kind of girl and she knew it. She had never really 'fitted-in' with the others. Their bullying and cruelty started as soon as she moved to Devon, so Coral spent her time alone with the inkpot ponies on the Exmoor coast. But, how could she know that someone was watching over her and trying to protect her? How would she react when she realised Jem had been there for 200 years, a teenage boy, almost a ghost but yet, not quite. There was so much they could learn from each other and so much to be done...
He reached the base of Old Man's Elbow and stopped dead in his tracks. Where was she? The girl had totally disappeared.
After several anxious minutes, Jem spotted the girl crawling out from behind a rock-pool, a magnificent Queen Scallop held fast in her hand. The girl popped the pale-cream shell into her ruck-sack and darted forwards in search of another speciment to add to her collection.
Coral was in her element. There was such an incredible range of rocks and shells on the beach, ranging from sparkling white and yellow crystals buried in the chunks of limestone to smooth slabs of slate. She stood a really good change of finding a fossil - the cove was an absolute treasure trove of geological wonders - and if she were really lucky she might even find an ammonite or a trilobite.
Jem watched as if in a trance. Was he dreaming? The girl's hair rippled as she moved like an underwater kelp forest. When she paused her limbs took on the stillness and permanence of granite. The speed with which she darted from rock-pool to rock-pool reminded him of a shoal of fish constantly changing direction in order to keep one step ahead of potential predators. But what color were her eyes? He hadst to know the clour of her eyes! He crept closer still...
Suddenly Coral halted before a lage rock-pool, its outer rim decorated with ink-blue mussels. Five minutes elapsed. Coral remained motionless, her eyes locked into the still water. Then without warning she thrust her arms deep into the watery deths and pulled out a gigantic King Crab.
The mighty crustacean boxed the air with its front pincers. Coral held on tightly to its body-plate. Then she tilted the crab backwards so that it was permanently off-balance. Immobilised, the crab strummed the air with tis six hind-legs whilst stabbing th sky with its front pincers.
Jem watched, captivated by both th girl and the crab. The crab reminded him of a bare-knuckle fighter being gradually worn down by a more agile and nimble opponent
Soon th crustacean begain to tire. Jem frowned. It was high-time the girl put the creature out of its misery. But how was she going to kill it? He flt sure the girl woud do the right thing and kill it kindly. What she needed was his filleting knife. One sharp stab through th bony shell into the crab's jelly brain would dispatch it swiftly with minimum pain. He fumbled to his back trouser pocket for his penknife. Then he gasped with surprise as the girl did something altogether unthinkable. She began to talk to the crab!
"You're luck I'm a vegetarian or I'd have taken you home as a present for my mother," Coral said good-naturedly. "You have a wonderful exoskeleton. One of th best I've ever seen. In fact I could look at you for hours. And I'd love to pain you. But I guess I'd better put you back where you belong. Thanks for allowing me to examine you."
Then Coral plunged the crab back into the rock-pool and quickly let go.
"No!" Jem cried out, appalled at th loss of a perfectly good meal; a crab that could provide him both lunch and dinner.
"Who's there?" she demanded, spinning round on the balls of her feet.
Jem froze, too shocked to say anything. The girl could hear him! Not only could she hear him, she was actually looking at him with dagger-eyes.
"What do you want?" Coral demanded fiercely, her hands tightened into walnut-shaped fists.
Jem stared at the girl speechless. Nobody could see him. He was invisible: a non-person. Nobody had seen him for over two hundred years.
Chantal Ashby Heaven was born in Rochford, England, to a French mother and English father. Her childhood years were spent by the seaside where oil pollution and the sight of rubbish regularly being washed up onto the shore featured highly in her earliest memories together with happier times spent on the London river barges. After a short spell spent as a campaigner for Keep Britain Tidy, Chantal began her career as an Abstractor at Reuters News Agency, writing simple head-lines and news 'abstracts' for text-line, an on-line news service. She started writing short stories and plays in her spare time and decided to quit journalism and train to be a Drama and History teacher at Bath University. She currently works as a theatre practitioner at the Merlin Theatre Frome and has written, produced and directed eighteen shows to date for the Children's Drama Group in addition to working as a Drama, History and English tutor. A third of all royalties generated from the sale of Jem and Coral will be donated to marine conservation.
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