A family takes an ocean journey from a bleak, war-torn location to a dock by a small house where a man and dog appear to welcome them.
The action begins immediately in this Australian import, as a woman, baby, young child (all have tan complexions), and brown dog run pell-mell down a slope tangled with barbed wire on the title page. Fiery red and yellow splashes behind them imply violence without offering details. Climbing into a boat with a patched sail, they set out. They see only the sea and sky until (improbably) they meet a polar bear perched on a floating refrigerator. After helping the polar bear to get home, the family sails on. King’s lovely ink-and-watercolor illustrations are simple but evocative. Blues and grays predominate, making the occasional appearance of bright green, yellow, and red stand out. Multiple unframed horizontal panels create a sense of movement, while double-page spreads allow readers a closer look at specific moments in the journey. Millard’s brief text, meanwhile, is decidedly abstract. Paired phrases contrast “I” and “you,” and each ends with an exhortation: “I am the small green pea / you are the tender pod / hold me.” Unfortunately, confusion about who is speaking to whom often makes it hard to understand who is being asked to “quench me” or “shelter me,” and some requests (“dance me”) may truly perplex young listeners.
While some adults may welcome the chance to discuss the issues raised in the illustrations, many may find the text, however lyrical, a barrier to comprehension. (Picture book. 5-8)