“The salmon fry swirled and splashed as they scattered, / ‘Spawn and die, spawn and die, spawn and die’ they all chattered.”
Lest children imagine that life is fair or safe, James offers a brutally naturalistic view of a salmon’s abruptly truncated journey. Separated from his best friend Jenny, Sukai leaves the ocean when his time comes to travel upriver and die with his fellow salmon. Unexpectedly catching her scent in the water, he “splashed with his tail excited to spawn, / But Jenny’s body was rotten and her eyes, they were gone.” Sukai achieves his apotheosis, but not in the way he intends: Before he can “sow his seed,” he is snatched by a bear, who takes a bite and leaves his corpse on the riverbank where “[t]housands of insects gathered and ate. / Transferring nutrients, minerals and valuable nitrates.” Featuring writhing maggots, blinking eyes and other small animations, plus occasional touch-activated nature sounds, the Canadian artist’s disorienting but distinctive illustrations place figures rendered in highly stylized Northwest Coast motifs into realistically painted outdoor settings. Readers disquieted by his lurid, ham-fisted verse and sometimes-disturbing pictures will find several blander mazes and coloring pages accessible through a link on every screen.
Makes Arlene Sardine look like My Little Pony. (iPad storybook app. 9-11)