A boy’s life is steered by and reflected in his relationship with the sea.
In a series of swirling, impressionistic, watercolor seascapes, a dark-haired, white-skinned boy is pictured at different life stages: as a young child; as a grown man with a family; and as an old man. At each stage, he receives a meaningful message from the sea. His moods are reflected in the moods of the sea, sometimes “dark and dangerous,” sometimes “tranquil and tender.” As the boy moves through the life stages, both he and the sea feel “the pull of something more.” He looks to the sea for answers to life’s questions, and sometimes they are answered—but just with a word: dream, love, be. Even when he is grown, he still does not know the answers to his questions. In its coverage of an entire life’s span, the book seems to be attempting to provide a universal message of guidance for growing up, but it’s too general and lacking in any kind of strong connection to be of value or of interest to a developing child. Small vignettes hint at adolescent conflicts, but so obliquely and superficially as to be valueless and at times obscure—particularly given that the audience for this book has not yet reached adolescence. That said, Bates’ paintings are lovely, capturing foamy, cresting waves in varying degrees of vigor; this seascape is never still. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)
Life’s questions remain unanswered in this attractive but frustratingly bland book.(Picture book. 6-8)