Review by New York Times Review
From serene to storm-tossed, the sea has long served as a mood ring for narrative literature and art: a powerful mirror and metaphor for exploring our inner weather. Three new picture books take readers out into these deep waters, each for an adventure with its own emotional complexion. In Julie Fogliano¿s ¿If You Want to See a Whale,¿ the ocean is unwaveringly calm ¿ not unlike the young boy who encounters, or rather imagines it. As the boy demonstrates the author¿s tips for successful whale watching, we recognize him as one of those bright, quirky children who can find contentment anywhere by daydreaming for hours at a time. Parents often feel compelled to send such children outdoors for ¿fresh air¿ or to kick the can down the road with friends. This quiet book reminds us that daydreaming is a pleasurable activity for children, and that it can lead to a larger sense of the world. ¿If you want to see a whale,¿ the author advises, ¿you will need a window, and an ocean, and time for waiting, and time for looking . . . ¿ Fogliano¿s words are carved and measured. This is a writer who takes her time, and the leaps she makes with language surprise and thrill. Erin E. Stead, winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal for ¿A Sick Day for Amos McGee,¿ draws with a firm, spare hand, and her illustrations have a crafted, artisanal feel. They luxuriate in white space and unarticulated expanses of softened color that leave readers with room for their own thoughts. The book¿s dimensions are more modest than those chosen for many a picture book, yet Stead¿s illustrations have more breadth than most. Not every child will drop anchor long enough to savor this resolutely understated story, but those who do will be glad they did. Other children prefer a good storm. Ever since Tomi Ungerer moved to New York in the mid-1950s and embarked on a picture-book career, the Alsatian-born illustrator has made a specialty of stirring up the waters. From such early books as ¿The Mellops Go Flying¿ and ¿Crictor¿ onward, his drolly devil-may-care productions have garnered praise while also courting controversy, as in ¿Crictor,¿ when he depicted an octopus with seven legs, apparently to see if anyone would notice. Drops of spilled blood, a man in a crowd scene impaled by an umbrella: Ungerer planted ever more outrageous combustibles in his illustrations with a view to feeding his young fans¿ inner Wild Thing, and tweaking the noses of their strait-laced minders. Not all that surprisingly, the Caldecott Medal has not come his way. In the 1970s, after generating further controversy with his searing anti-Vietnam War posters and forays into erotic art, Ungerer returned to Europe, where his picture books remain as well known as those by Maurice Sendak, if not more so. In ¿Fog Island¿ the old high jinks have largely given way to an urge to dive into mythic waters and tell a fateful tale inspired by Ungerer¿s years living along the Irish coast. For once, the storm in question is a real storm, and a young brother and sister are caught in it in their fogbound boat at sea. The next thing they know, the brave but powerless children are washed ashore on an island they have been warned not to visit: Fog Island. When they encounter a Methuselah-like man with floor-length hair and a candle strapped to his forehead, they fear the worst. ¿I am the Fog Man,¿ their host announces. ¿I am the one who makes it.¿ To their relief, he proves to be an agreeable fellow, a benign, hard-working fog god or spirit whom the villagers have plainly misjudged. He sings for the children, then sends them off, fog-free, toward home. But storms lie beyond his purview, and soon the two doughty youngsters will face the fright of their lives. Mist-shrouded sea and landscapes in dour grays and greens set a scene that lies light-years away from the chipper, Day-Glo shallows of, say, ¿Pinkalicious.¿ Ungerer¿s drawings, like blowups of panels from an Expressionist graphic novel, are cartoonishly raw and emotionally penetrating, though they come with a generous dash of silly sight gags, too. Here, with a becoming respect for children¿s curiosity about the forces that govern the world and their role in that grand scheme, Ungerer takes young readers to a place they have never been before, and he does the same for the picture book. Just as unusual in its way is ¿The Enduring Ark,¿ a retelling of the biblical story of Noah and the Flood, in an accordion-style, friezelike book from Tara Books, an innovative publishing collective based in Chennai, India. The cross-cultural fit between an Old Testament narrative and artwork by a traditional West Bengali scroll painter is bound to puzzle at first. But Hindu scripture has its own flood myth, as do ancient story-cycles from around the world. As Gita Wolf, who is also Tara¿s publisher, states in the prologue, ¿Great tales deserve to be repeated.¿ A dwindling clan of itinerant West Bengali artist-singer-storytellers carries on the folk tradition known as Patua scroll painting. Driving rhythmic line work, vivid but slightly muted colors, and flattened, strongly silhouetted renderings of animals, people and plants make for an action-packed panorama that is easily read. Tears that in the opening panel pour forth from the all-seeing eye of a saddened God form a watery baseline for the scene that in every sense is about to unfold. As the rains begin, the water level rises; by the second side of the frieze, water has engulfed everything. Gradually, mere fascination with the artwork¿s novelty yields to a gripping recognition of a world ¿ our world ¿ in radical free fall and transformation. But who, really, is such a picture narrative for? Children¿s books are the literature of hope, and so is this haunting old tale about an ark riding the waves of a sea of troubles. Leonard S. Marcus is the author of the forthcoming ¿Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing.¿
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [July 2, 2013]
Review by Booklist Review
Finn and Cara live with their parents in Ireland, in the back of beyond. It's a poor farming life, but when the family is in their cottage and the wind is howling, they feel safe enough. Living by the sea, they are used to boats, and when their daid makes the children a small curragh, he warns them to never to leave the bay with it and, above all, never go to Fog Island, a dark and dangerous place. But one day, while out in the boat, a fog envelopes the siblings and strong currents carry them to the island. Evil is what they fear, but instead they meet an odd old man the Fog Man who cranks out the misty gray. He shows the children how it's done and even feeds them, but will he allow them to leave for home? The story has a standard journey feel, but the mixed-media illustrations are quite rich. Whether the children are at home, out on the sea, or in the castle, the fog is ever present, almost becoming a character in its own right. A moody, mysterious piece.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Any new book from Ungerer is a cause for celebration, and this one offers a particularly enticing blend of mystery and magic. Siblings Finn and Cara live "by the sea in the back of beyond" with their parents, and the book's early scenes offer homey details of the family's poor but happy life in what is presumably Ireland (to which the book is dedicated). The children's father makes them a small boat, a curragh, warning them to steer clear of Fog Island, "a doomed and evil place." Of course, that's exactly where the children end up. Surreal, mist-shrouded images build a sense of strangeness and tension. Tall anthropomorphic rocks flank a winding staircase, peering at the children suspiciously, and green skeletal arms cling to the door at the top of the stairs, where the children are greeted by a "wizened old man," who shares some of the island's secrets while leaving them with new questions. It's the kind of classic adventure that allows children to triumph over convention and common sense, threaded with peculiar imagery and unknowable mysteries that linger in the imagination. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
K-Gr 3-Full of suspense and magic, this captivating adventure is set amid the harsh landscape of Ireland's west coast. Resourceful Finn and his sister, Cara, live with their parents, who make a living by fishing and farming-"The family was poor yet grateful to survive on what they had." The spare text captures the lilt of country folk, as well as their superstitions. Ungerer creates an eerie atmosphere by using a palette of predominantly somber hues of gray, black, brown, and blue. The art is dramatic and powerful; the cover spread of fog-enshrouded children glows with breathtaking beauty. After their father builds a small curragh for his son and daughter, he warms them never to go to Fog Island, a "doomed and evil place," but one day they find themselves lost in a fog and currents carry them to there. Once they land, the curious youngsters climb a set of slippery stairs with creepy faces peering at them and skeletonlike vines intertwined among the rocks. But the person who answers the door at the top is the rather lonely and congenial Fog Man. He shows them how he makes fog, serves them a strange fish stew, and tucks them into bed. When they awake the next morning, they find themselves lying among ruins with no one in sight, but with steaming bowls of stew by their side. Literal-minded readers might wonder why the Fog Man's lair appears to be underwater, when the children walked so far up the steps to find it. And the subsequent storm and rescue at sea seems tacked on. Nevertheless, this intriguing story will ignite discussion on the central question-was the Fog Man real, or a dream?-Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
An elegant jacket -- an island jutting up from a low-lying mist, a small boat reflected in a placid sea, minimal use of type -- sets the tone superbly for a simple tale (dedicated to Ungerer's adopted home of Ireland) enriched with magic and mystery. Finn and Cara, rowing the little curragh their fisherman father made them, are suddenly lost in a fog. Washed up on the island they've been warned to avoid -- looming "like a jagged black tooth" in the bay -- they meet Fog Man, who shows them how he makes fog by pouring sea water into the "glowing, bubbling, liquid red mass" of magma in the earth's core. After entertaining them with food and song, he shows them to bed. In the morning, mysteriously, they awake in an ancient and empty ruin. The fog has lifted; the curragh is there to carry them home. The greatest glory of this well-told story is its illustrations, especially Ungerer's masterful depiction of sea and sky -- layers of luminous mist, a shining sea with a gold-rimmed horizon -- dramatically set off by black rocks, Irish green, the sober browns of plain living, and touches of the magma's fiery red -- a cap, a candle, a pair of suspenders. The characterizations are just right, too: Fog Man, for example, is a benevolent, legendary sort of figure clothed in his own hair. A rare treat. joanna rudge long (c) Copyright 2013. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
The renowned Ungerer presents an atmospheric, folkloric adventure celebrating the childhood imagination's ability to transform fear. Finn, Cara and their parents farm traditionally along the coast, raising food, fishing, cutting peat and spinning wool. Their father builds his children a rowboat (called a curragh), admonishing them to avoid eerie Fog Island. While the siblings are out exploring, an enveloping fog and strong currents necessitate an emergency landing on the island. Climbing steps up spooky rock cliffs, they encounter the Fog Man, his hair and beard cascading to his ankles. After showing them how he uses valves, the Earth's magma and seawater to make fog, he provides songs, seafood stew and a good night's rest. Next morning, though they wake in a ruined room with no sign of the Fog Man, bowls of hot stew await them. Finn and Cara's mysterious, shared experiences on Fog Island belie their neighbors' skepticism, and when, weeks later, Cara finds a very long hair in her soup, they giggle knowingly. Ungerer's pictures are cloaked in deliberate, misty grays and browns, accented with blue-green and red. Details abound, including sly ones: Might that be the author, fiddling at the pub, just below a mysterious, flowing mane of hair? The publisher's ever-lovely bookmaking is evidenced in the creamy stock, crisp typography and embossed boards. Dedicated to Ungerer's adopted Ireland and its people, this is a poignant, magical gift for us all. (Picture book. 4-8)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.