Jay’s distinctive media and style combine to present a wordless, fantastic beach story of adventure and compassion.
Cover art, frontmatter and opening illustrations introduce key characters and objects, aligning readers with the boy protagonist in his beachcombing activity as they search the pictures for detail. The boy meets a little girl who joins him in his play, but then everyone out at sea and on the beach flees for cover when a storm rolls in. The boy retreats to his lighthouse home, the next day waking to see a giant octopus that has emerged “out of the blue” and been washed up on the beach. Others have netted it to the ground, but when the boy discovers that it’s still alive, he acts with the girl and others to free it and pull it back to sea. The oil paintings with crackling varnish are stunning in their narrative clarity as panels establish temporal sequence. On the other hand, the story reads like two pieces forced together—the beachcombing-play scenario and then the octopus story, and pacing would have been improved with a shorter first piece. Backmatter pages provide information about giant octopi, lighthouses, tides, jellyfish and other story details, but these aren’t rich in content and end up seeming superfluous.
A beautiful if rather sprawling beach book. (Picture book. 3-7)