Melville’s classic gets a lush, if wildly oversimplified, retelling under its author’s generally sure hand.
Call him Ishmael. To rhyming verse, one lad’s adventures on the Pequod are retold in brief, generally accurate detail. Readers meet the harpooner Queequeg (ambiguous ethnicity and tattooed head intact), the obsessed Ahab (red eyes matching that of the titular whale’s) and the crew. Ahab challenges his men to spot the leviathan, and after much searching, they find it, marking the beginning of the end for the Pequod and its crew. Kimmel’s rhymes scan with clarity from the start, and he has a genius for synthesizing the loquacious storyline down to its plot essentials. A pity he chooses to end the retelling with the simplistic and wholly un-Melville-ian lesson, “The moral of this story is, / as my sad tale has shown: / Respect all creatures, great and small, / and leave the whales alone!” The high point of the title turns out to be Glass’ art. His oil-and-pencil illustrations create a white whale hide interlaced with the scars of countless harpooners, his sheer girth a towering mountain of angry flesh. Readers will have little difficulty understanding the awe inspired by such a creature.
For a bare-bones retelling of the original’s plot, this has no equal. Just don’t expect any more than that. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 6-10)