A collection of illustrated poems explores human travel across oceans through history.
Poems by 12 different poets explore, from the 15th century up to the present, human travels on the “blue road”—the oceans. Spanning Columbus’ voyage to “a new world” and the refugee crisis of the 21st century, and including the middle passage slave trade, Jewish Holocaust refugees, the Titanic, the Mariel boatlift, and the Irish Potato Famine migration, along with many others, the poems tell stories that are beautiful, sad, thought-provoking, and necessary. The full-bleed illustrations—drawings based on archival images and finished with some digital manipulation—aim to be the “visual equivalent” rather than “literal illustration” of the poems, but some are more successful than others—in particular the stark, vulnerable image that accompanies Jane Yolen’s twinned poems about the Jewish refugee ship St. Louis. Many illustrations offer the same full-bleed dark blue palette, which, through repetition, becomes numbing rather than evocative. Historical notes, such as a statement on the devastating effect of Columbus’ legacy of exploitation of the native inhabitants of the Caribbean, are relayed in the book’s backmatter, which also includes short bios on the poets and, interestingly, the typefaces used.
Care and research are evident throughout this poignant book, which is much more than its subtitle, “Poems of the Sea”; in essence and in sum, it is a history of inhumanity. (Picture book/poetry. 8-14)