In Rufus And The Biggest Diamond In The World, Michael Elsmere creates nothing less than a complete fantasy world of children’s literature. Rufus has been told a story by his father about a diamond of a size beyond anyone’s dreams. It is just waiting to be found, so, having lost his parents, Rufus sets out to do precisely that.
It is a journey of total imagination, a journey through some quintessential scenes of childhood experience, settings of spectacular invention, surely reminiscent of places that many of us might have been. There is a treasure hunt bound for the Spanish Main, an adventure voyage on board ships from a chivalric, Romantic past. But when the mission is redirected according to an omen unearthed by a submarine hero, Africa becomes the destination that Rufus and his companion, Jim, must explore. If only they could themselves have read the clues that explained how the under-sea horde was transformed into a diamond mine on land.
In Rufus, Michael Elsmere has invented a wonderful, likeable character, a young lad with an imagination powerful enough to give ideas life and to do so in the most mundane of surroundings. The author also avoids cliché at all times. There are no platitudes of magic potions that appear just as they are required to do exactly what is needed, convenient shrinking or aggrandizement, and no mere description of scene after scene. Throughout Rufus And The Biggest Diamond In The World, Michael Elsmere offers elegant prose that provides regularly evocative surprises. It provides a quite beautiful vehicle to explore the power of imagination, to re-experience the joy of discovery.
Okay, kids. Rufus is a good lad. He is perhaps about the same age as you. He’s lost his parents and there’s a diamond to be found. There’s a sailing ship, pirates, treasure, gold, shipwrecks, talking birds, submarines, and electric eels. There are eggheads who know how to read things that other people can’t even see. Maps are redrawn in people’s pockets and point to new places. There are lions, jungles, snakes, beautiful ladies, and witches. There are deserts, oceans, seas, mountains, caves, caverns, stones, stalactites, and schools.
And so Rufus And The Biggest Diamond In The World becomes itself a celebration of the form in which it exists. It is gentle, subtle writing to convey truly exciting, fast-paced fun. And kids, I suspect a few parents, especially those who might be rendered a little tearful by genuine nostalgia, might enjoy reading Rufus themselves. It’s a book that genuinely inhabits multiple levels, a story that will enrapture the young, and a concept that will fascinate the once young.
But then, when you have read Rufus, you will want to read more, because that is what Rufus is about. These imagined worlds are themselves bigger, greater, more vivid and more real just because they are imagined.