Old man of the sea

by Mar 1, 2020Book Review, Fiction, Picture Book

Book Details

Old man of the sea
Stella Elia, illus. Weberson Santiago. London: Lantana, hb, 9 781 9113 7354 4, 2019, £11.99, 34pp.
Picture book, 5-8 years

Grandfather is old; often visits pass in silence. It is far from exciting. Until one day, Grandfather starts to tells stories of his youth when as a sailor he travelled the world. The stories are full of colour and life, perhaps they are make-believe. Running through all, however, is the truth about grandfather; his passionate love of the sea was his life.

The lyrical text is an imaginative travelogue in which the continents are given personalities which enchant and engage the young sailor and, of course, the young reader. But the sea, like any passion, is always there. The only thing that can balance it is family. However, memories – the stories bequeathed by past adventures will also remain and through them young and old can meet. And this celebration of understanding across generations is at the heart of the story.

Bringing the words alive and marrying the imagination with reality are the illustrations. Saturated colours fill the double page spreads as Grandfather’s stories expand. Tantalising details inhabit the continents, real landmarks framed by mythical and imaginary creatures. These alternate with spreads which evoke the sea itself, its space, its magic across a colourful caravel; it is the creature of story. We know we are going on a journey the moment we open the covers to see a fleet of galleons sailing round a landmass in profile. Closing the book, at the end of the journey, there is the map of the world with attendant sea serpent.

Review by FMH

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