Falling overboard, a fisherman experiences a mysterious underwater encounter with a seal.
Impressionistic illustrations alone tell this bewitching, somewhat bewildering tale. Returning with their catches, fishermen (all evidently white and male) head into a tavern to regale one another with tall tales of pirates, giant fish, and mermaids. At dawn, they set sail once more, and their nets soon fill with fish. When he discovers a gray seal tangled in his net, a fisherman in a green sweater falls overboard trying to release it. Caught in the net himself, the fisherman’s pulled down with the seal into the ocean’s depths, where they engage in aquatic acrobatics, so closely entwined that the fisherman appears to become a green seal. Slowly the gray seal draws the fisherman upward toward the fishing boat, pulling and pushing him until his smiling comrades hoist him aboard as the seal watches them depart. The delicate, indistinct illustrations (appropriately rendered in faint pencil lines washed freely in watercolor hues echoing the blue-green ocean, yellow sunlight, and gray seal) effectively convey the vast underwater stillness. Clever use of full-page and double-page spreads as well as horizontal and vertical panels heightens the silent, dramatic communion taking place between fisherman and seal. From the title, readers may assume the seal’s a selkie, but the absence of text, notes, or visual details combines with the apparent transformation of the fisherman to leave readers uncertain.
A visually arresting, haunting, wordless tale guaranteed to spark wonder. (Picture book. 4-8)