The Donald Trunk book launch at the Jetwing Lighthouse consisted of an outdoor theatre production that brought to life the book characters, played by Sri Lankan and Western actors. All comers were checked in by Donald’s butterfly godmother, then met Bella Donna, Donald’s mermaid friend, posing for pictures by the pool, while Anoma, the hotel naturalist, told all the kids fascinating facts about the blue whale. After an exciting opening narration by the artist, Janet, and her counterpart Mandara, who inspired the kids with her beautiful Sinhala translation of the book, the butterflies directed in both languages, “Follow us!” The mermaid splashed across the pool, a life size monkey climbed up a tree and Donald, a cheeky member of staff in costume, trumpeted, to begin the grand opening. The famous author, Shrabani Basu, of Victoria and Abdul, now a blockbuster film – observed all this from her balcony just after checking in, watching the throng of kids following butterflies and throwing flower petals and glitter. Most auspiciously, her daughter runs The Children’s Bookshop in London, making it a serendipitous event for the Donald Trunk team.
As kids followed the menagerie of creatures past the pool and down cascading steps, prizes were being given out. The sun shone, the kids’ faces never stopped smiling and, despite there being hundreds of people, no one spoke, as they were spell bound by the magical performance.
As the play twisted and turned, out slithered snaky Satarnia and off ran the kids, with the rest of the audience following, to meet the mermaid again by the Anchor bar pool. Chef Nihal and team put on a marvellous tea with incredible Donald surfing cake, which was unfurled after the co-owner of Jetwing, Shiromal Cooray, made a moving and funny speech about Sri Lankan wildlife and Jetwing’s work to protect it. Then, Herman Gunaratne, the famous Sri Lankan author and tea maestro, told everyone about how the book took shape and why it will be a real winner. Behind the scenes Jetwing’s amazing general manager Priyanthika Wijenaike kept the whole show on the road and without her vision something of this size would never have been possible.
Juliet Coombe, the author, quizzed the kids and awarded over a hundred prizes. Everyone chatted over tea and the cake, while some of the crowd took selfies with the stars, or looked at the exhibition of original drawings from the book. No one wanted to go home but at sunset, after many books and drawings were signed and sparkles thrown, people headed off to the official opening of the annual Fairway Galle Literary Festival.