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An award-winning author and illustrator present a tribute to the beauty and mystery of the ocean.

It came from the sea, from the lonely sea,
It came from the glittering sea.

In a small Massachusetts fishing village in August of 1817, dozens of citizens claimed to have seen an enormous sea serpent swimming off the coast. Terrified at first, the people of Gloucester eventually became quite accustomed to their new neighbor. Adventure seekers came from miles around to study the serpent and aggressively hunt it down, but the creature eluded capture. The Gloucester sea serpent was then, and remains now, a complete mystery. 

Reviving the rhythms and tone of a traditional sea chanty, M.T. Anderson recounts this exhilarating sea adventure through the eyes of a little boy who secretly hopes for the serpent''s survival. The author''s captivating verse is paired with Bagram Ibatoulline''s luminous paintings, created in the spirit of nineteenth-century New England maritime artists.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-5–Rhyming text recounts the early-19th-century sighting of a large, mysterious sea serpent off the coast of Gloucester, MA. In keeping with the historical record, Anderson tells how the whole fishing village repeatedly viewed the creature until it disappeared with the onset of winter; the following summer, thinking they had sighted it far out on the sea, men set out to kill it, only to discover in the end that they had caught a huge mackerel. The narrator would seem to be a boy who runs through the streets announcing the arrival of the strange visitor. Ultimately, readers learn that an old man is recounting this boyhood ex perience for his grandchild. Formal, highly detailed paintings done in acrylic gouache are somber in tone and fill single or double pages. The shiny serpent is more a curiosity than a monstrous threat. Both verse and pictures create a vivid sense of long ago and far away. Yet, the story is a bit flat and somewhat confusing after the dead mackerel scene when the boy and some fishermen row out and view two creatures at play. Was this a dream or a bit of fantasy? All other references, including the author''s concluding note on the history of this and other New England sea-serpent sightings, speak of just a single creature. The poetry reads well, and the story is a somewhat nostalgic recollection rather than a dramatic encounter. An evocative introduction to poetic narrative, local legends, or an exploration of a tantalizing subject.– Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 2-4. The versatile author of works as varied as Handel, Who Knew What He Liked (2001), Feed (2002), and Whales on Stilts (2005) pens a ballad that many will assume came straight from some leather-bound volume of romantic poetry. Inspired by the reported appearances of a sea serpent frolicking in Gloucester harbor in 1817, Anderson writes from the perspective of a boy who witnesses the creature''s visitations and is secretly pleased when it evades glory-seeking hunters. Ibatoulline, whose classically inspired artwork has graced Hana in the Time of the Tulips (2004) and others, provides refined gouache paintings that would look at home framed in gilt in a maritime museum. The period sensibility extends to endpapers resembling the decorative, blue-and-white ceramic tiles popular at the time. Many children won''t respond to the contained illustration style and distant perspectives, which downplay the story''s fantasy elements. But if read aloud with feeling, the poem''s forceful rhythms will keep the attention of most audiences, as will the endnote about the legend, which includes additional resources, all written for adults. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

M.T. Anderson is the author of the celebrated picture book biography  Handel, Who Knew What He Liked, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. He is also the author of several young adult novels, most recently  Feed, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the  Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Considering the existence of sea serpents, he says, "For generations, fishermen in places as distant as New England and Norway took for granted the existence of long snakelike animals in the North Atlantic. It takes a peculiar kind of snobbery to believe that men who worked on the sea all their lives — though illiterate — were by nature superstitious, confused, and gullible. Unlike those people who have seen Bigfoot. Whew, what a bunch of lunatics!" M.T. Anderson currently serves on the faculty at Vermont College''s MFA Program in Writing for Children.

Bagram Ibatoulline was born in Russia, graduated from the State Academic Institute of Arts in Moscow, and has worked in the fields of fine arts, graphic arts, mural design, and textile design. He is the illustrator of several children''s picture books, including  Crossing by Philip Booth, named an American Library Association Notable Children''s Book,  The Animal Hedge by Paul Fleischman, a  Publishers Weekly Best Children''s Book of the Year, and, most recently,  Hana In the Time of the Tulips Deborah Noyes.

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4.9 out of 54.9 out of 5
14 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Wendy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This book is a hidden gem.
Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2010
No one talks much about this book, but it is a hidden gem. The language is beautiful. The art work is beautiful. There is nothing not to love about this book. I bought this book because I could read it a thousand times and never get tired of reading it. A young boy... See more
No one talks much about this book, but it is a hidden gem. The language is beautiful. The art work is beautiful. There is nothing not to love about this book. I bought this book because I could read it a thousand times and never get tired of reading it. A young boy tells the story of the serpent in the sea and the way his village responds to its appearance. Emotion is tangible as fear subsides into pride for the serpent and desire to protect. It ends up with a sweet depiction of a grandparent sharing the story and wishing that the grandchild on his lap could see this wonder.
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Nan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
So fascinating and my son loves this one
Reviewed in the United States on September 28, 2015
We first got this book out of library where I first came across it. We loved it so much we had to have a copy for our home library. My 2nd grader loves this book and we''ve read it multiple times.
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Jane
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
What a great book
Reviewed in the United States on April 13, 2008
This beautiful picture book should be read aloud, even if you are reading it aloud to yourself, because the sea-shanty rhythm of the text adds a musical depth to this gorgeous and haunting narrative. I should have been too jaded to enjoy this--in the course of writing my... See more
This beautiful picture book should be read aloud, even if you are reading it aloud to yourself, because the sea-shanty rhythm of the text adds a musical depth to this gorgeous and haunting narrative. I should have been too jaded to enjoy this--in the course of writing my own picture book on the Loch Ness monster, I read a bunch of sadly soggy sea serpent stories. But M. T. Anderson''s contribution to the genre rises way above that waterline. The tale is plot-driven enough for younger children and monster afficionadoes, but also had emotional overtones that captivated even my older twin daughters.
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Jamazon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book for kids
Reviewed in the United States on January 1, 2013
Being from Gloucester I had grown up hearing stories of the Gloucester sea serpent, and thought this book would be a great way to share this story with my son. My son is now five and he loves this book. The illustrations are fantastic and the story is fun and captivating.
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Experienced Editor
4.0 out of 5 stars
Natural beauty and mythic mystery
Reviewed in the United States on October 14, 2009
"It came from the sea, from the lonely sea, It came from the glittering sea." In August of 1817, the people of Gloucester, Massachusetts, reported seeing a sea serpent playing in their harbor. Author M. T. Anderson researched original nineteenth-century accounts... See more
"It came from the sea, from the lonely sea,
It came from the glittering sea."
In August of 1817, the people of Gloucester, Massachusetts, reported seeing a sea serpent playing in their harbor. Author M. T. Anderson researched original nineteenth-century accounts of the mystery creature before writing this poetic picture book narrated by a feisty fictional boy.
Rhymed text as rhythmic as a sea chantey impels the story forward. Gloucester residents quickly grow accustomed to the playful visitor''s presence, and their initial fear changes to fascination and even fondness. After the creature disappears in autumn, winter seems long and lonely.
When the serpent returns the following spring, fishermen come from neighboring towns intent on killing the monster, but young readers will recognize that such a capricious creature could never be caught.
Bagram Ibatoulline''s acrylic gouache paintings blend realism and wonder on every page. Luminous seascapes reflect the natural beauty and mythic mystery of the tale. A single painting of the village in winter, waiting in snowy stillness, offers arresting contrast to scenes of the leaping sea waves and lively serpent.
My daughter called it called it "a remarkable book, as a read-aloud or for independent young readers, that many can enjoy--whether or not they already have a love of the sea."
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Skye Kilaen
4.0 out of 5 stars
Nice change of pace compared to the usual more cartoony monster books
Reviewed in the United States on November 22, 2016
This is such a cool book! Written in verse, it retells reports from a Massachusetts village in 1817 that a sea serpent had appeared in the waves off their coast. The paintings are spot-on for the time period, and the text just rolls out beautifully when you read it aloud.... See more
This is such a cool book! Written in verse, it retells reports from a Massachusetts village in 1817 that a sea serpent had appeared in the waves off their coast. The paintings are spot-on for the time period, and the text just rolls out beautifully when you read it aloud. There is a possibly upsetting sequence where men come from outside the village to hunt and kill the serpent, but the serpent is too clever for that, and all ends well.
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Cara L. Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars
Beautiful work of art
Reviewed in the United States on April 16, 2020
The artwork is captivating and the story, while easy to understand, reads like classic children''s poetry. It definitely deserves more recognition than it gets! My daughter is 6 and loves it, though I enjoy it myself. I would classify this as modern living literature.
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M. Heiss
5.0 out of 5 stars
Captivating -- don''t skip the author''s notes
Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2011
The rhyme scheme and the illustrations are instantly understandable to young people. The giant double-page pictures pull your eyeballs into the paper and put you into the village. The next summer, when the men come to hunt the sea serpent, it is surprising how... See more
The rhyme scheme and the illustrations are instantly understandable to young people. The giant double-page pictures pull your eyeballs into the paper and put you into the village.

The next summer, when the men come to hunt the sea serpent, it is surprising how many of them wear eye patches -- I count five. And why would they lift the eye patch to see better?

Always with the lyrical descriptions of the sea -- mirroring the emotion of the story.

And... it happened in America in 1817. Cool.
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mycupoftea
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Livre poétique...
Reviewed in France on October 22, 2013
Très beau livre qui fait rêver. Belle histoire, superbement illustrée (avec de grandes illustrations en couleur). Un livre nostalgique autour d''un souvenir d''enfance. Convient aussi aux adultes qui ont gardé leur âme d''enfant.
Très beau livre qui fait rêver. Belle histoire, superbement illustrée (avec de grandes illustrations en couleur). Un livre nostalgique autour d''un souvenir d''enfance. Convient aussi aux adultes qui ont gardé leur âme d''enfant.
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