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.
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
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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.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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.