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December 6, 2014

Songs of the Sea

I got some books to talk about before I sum up my (as always, very good) picture book year, and for no very good reason, all the books I have for this post are all about fish. Which delights me.

fisherman-throughThe first one is Fishermen Through and Through by Colleen Sydor and Brooke Kerrigan, which is just brand new (and has a string of bunting on its cover). It’s a storied story, rich with allusion, but in the most unostentatious way. It’s about three fisherman called Peter, Santiago, and Ahab who “were rough and weathered as a twisted stick of driftwood… Which is not to say that they didn’t sometimes dream of things other than fish, knotted nets, and saltwater.” The three fisherman dream their dreams of a different kind of life, and while under influence of dreaming, they come across a bright white lobster in one of their nets. The men decide to share the wonder with other people, so they bring the lobster to shore, where it creates a media furor. For the lobster, they’re offered enough money to make all their dreams come true. So what are they going to do, these friends, who are fishermen through and through?

The illustrations are gorgeous and dreamy, in particular the subtle shades of the sky. And the prose: lines like, “Man and crustacean sailed this way, admiring one another until the sun got snoozey and settled down, down on an orange cloud, toward the lip of the sea.” I loved this one, and Harriet did too, for it’s a story full of magic and meaning.

glubIt immediately put me in mind of A Fish Named Glub by Dan Bar-El and Josee Bisaillon, which came out in the Spring. Which was a book I didn’t first know what to make of—it’s really weird, more like a Wes Anderson film than a picture book. It deals with big existential things in a manner that struck me as a bit twee the first time I encountered the story, but it’s grown on me, and Harriet likes it. Similar to Fisherman Through and Through, it’s a story about dreams and friendship and lessons learned from those confined to an aquarium, and it’s got more than a little magic too.

jim-longs-stageAnother book that’s new to us but is familiar to lots of other readers is Down By Jim Long’s Stage by Al Pittman, with illustrations by Pam Hall, subtitled, “Rhymes for children and young fish.” It’s a Newfoundland classic, a wonderful and silly accounting of the subaquatic social scene, with rhymes like, “A lobster named Larry/ so wanted to marry/ Lila the lobster next door./ That when he proposed/ and she turned up her nose/ he wept all over the floor.” Such pathos! Such rhyme! Many times since we picked up our copy, we’ve read it cover to cover.

sailorAnd finally, There Was an Old Sailor by Claire Saxby and Cassandra Allen, which I’ve rounded up before, and most certainly deserves a place in this mix. It’s a quite preposterous redux of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” (which is pretty preposterous in itself, but come on, it’s not like she swallowed a whale, for pity’s sake…), with a maritime theme. We love to sing this one, and tickle our children with the line about the jelly “that wriggled and wriggled and jiggled his belly” and then to revert to all serious when we come back to the same line each time: “I don’t know why he swallowed the krill—It’ll make him ill.”

Plus the illustrations are so so wonderful. Check out the squid to find out precisely what I mean:


One thought on “Songs of the Sea”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Kerry…going to go fishing for these titles!

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