This latest collaboration between Fleming and Rohmann explores the elusive giant squid.
Fleming focuses as much on lingering unknowns as facts, introducing uncertainty in a poetic prologue: "Who are these giants of the dark seas?… // It is a mystery. // After all, how can you know / about an animal hidden from view? / You must rely on clues, / as scientists do...." Rohmann's full-bleed oil-on-paper pictures convey the squid's enormous size by capturing only its parts. Its two tentacles, "curling and twisting and thirty feet long," undulate both within the picture plane and outside it. After a barracuda’s foiled by squid ink, dramatic double gatefolds open, revealing that even a yardwide page can’t fully contain this creature. Sea depths are dark teal, purpled, or blackened; gorgeously crisp white text type casts its own light. Anatomical details elicit Fleming's most assertive descriptions. As tentacles enfold a fish, "they latch on with powerful / sucker-studded clubs. / ... / Suckers ringed with saw-like teeth / that rip into skin and hold on tight." There’s a startling close-up of "the beak. / Bone-hard and parrot-like." Poetic compression occasionally results in obfuscation. Accounting for the squid's huge eyes, Fleming elides bioluminescence (effectively, jellyfishes’ early-warning system of approaching predators), discernible by the squid only as “a shimmering outline.” The creature’s potential color changes are mentioned speculatively, without further qualification.
Visually marvelous, like its subject—with a text more poetic than expository. (labeled diagram of giant squid, author’s note, bibliography, web resources, suggested books) (Informational picture book. 6-9)