Short Stories 366:361 — “The Fabulous Animal Jamboree,” by Paul Magrs

Okay, I know Christmas is done, but there was one more of the stories in this collection, Christmassy Tales, that I really wanted to talk about before the closing of the year, so consider it a Boxing Day theme, and I promise it even suits, what with Boxing Day begin about repurposing things and the like. See, it’s about animals in a museum. Rather, the stuffed kind, and in particular it’s about a Dodo (who really, only her beak is technically real, the rest of her having been patched together from other stuff including papier maché) and a Tigon, and—as we all know—at night the stuffed museum animals become real and hang out and chat and have friendships, and the friendship between Maude (the Tigon) and Diedre (the Dodo) is resplendent with the usual “buddy friendship” magic that Paul Magrs crafts so well (see pretty much everything he’s ever written, but most especially the brilliant Brenda and Effie series).

So. It’s night in the museum, Maude and Diedre are chatting it up, and Maude, who had been “in the back” since the 1940’s and has just come back around again on display, mentions the Fabulous Animal Jamboree in Paris on Christmas, and Diedre has no idea what she’s talking about and it turns out no one really remembers and now they’re on a mission. Because, you see, the Fabulous Animal Jamboree (held in Paris) is a night where all the stuffed extinct animals gather and have a marvellous party, and having been in the back of the museum for so long, Maude is missing it and determined to go. But she starts to worry about how well Diedre might be received: she is, after all, only somewhat authentic, but with some magic, some hope, and a great deal of bravery (which comes less naturally to a Dodo), there’s a will and a way.

The adventure of these two would be a brilliantly illustrated Children’s book, frankly, and by virtue of the Dodo’s woes about her own authenticity, I can’t help but think it would be a marvellously queer children’s book, with the message of what feels to us as being us is truly what matters. Regardless of its format, however, I’m just glad I bumped into this one during the trash-fire of this our year 2020 of endless awful, because it was such a bright little spark in my day, and for a little bit, I imagined myself magicked away to Paris, surrounded by animals who had more than enough life left to party, thank you very much.

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