If you can hear the sea in a seashell, maybe there’s a mermaid or a submarine in there, too, suggests Nogués Otero in this Spanish import.
Young Max, with his bucket and shovel, is kicking around on the beach. He finds a conch shell and puts it up to his ear to “see if it was true that one could hear the sea inside.” In Cabestany’s soft artwork of pencil and paint, a dreamy mood takes over the proceedings. Sitting on the beach, Max listens very carefully and experiences more than just the sound of the surf. He hears/imagines a pirate ship and a castaway holding a coconut head. There is also a mermaid in there, who startles an old man and his cabin boy (who are sailing in a folded-paper boat). Max can hear the calls of puffins and the flapping of their wings. The sea pulling at the stones on the shore in the backwash “made a little noise, like tickling.” A whale “spit gallons and gallons of steam,” though that “steam” looks a lot like fish. Max picks up the presence of “millions of silent jellyfish”—it’s his imagination, after all—and the whale sings its song, which alerts a submarine captain, who ups periscope to spy…a boy on the beach. Nogués Otero’s imagination makes a few odd turns, but since when are dreams beholden to the everyday? Max is depicted with pale skin and hair.
A circular figment that should work well as a lullaby. (Picture book. 3-6)