A young girl explores a nearby island and discovers a surprise.
Nara, a red-haired, fair-skinned girl, lives with her equally pale father on an island “so small you can’t lose anything.” From the secret place she goes to when she wants to get lost, Nara dreams of visiting a nearby island she can see. Then one day her father fixes their boat and drops her off to explore the island while he rows in search of the Big Fish. (The giant fish is shown in the endpapers in an overhead view, with an odd and unsettling addition on the back endpapers of three people floating near it.) Ungureanu's illustrations are rendered in muted colors evocative of early-20th-century illustrated books and have an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland feel to them as he shows Nara exploring the exotic island that is so much wilder than her own. Nara’s homely face is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s work, adding to the book’s overall nostalgic and somewhat otherworldly feel. When Nara meets Aran, a blond, fair boy who lives on the wild island (and whose name is Nara spelled backward), they share confidences and become friends. Readers may wish for an ending with more obvious oomph, but there are strong undercurrents of doppelgänger here that give the story an extra twist.
Superficially sweet, with sophisticated undercurrents that young readers won’t grasp. (Picture book. 4-8)