Alberto, a carpenter who’s buried his entire family, finds rejuvenation in protecting a motherless boy from his abusive father.
Perched above the sea, Allora is beloved by artists and renowned for its peculiar flying fish. Thirty years before, a plague swept the town, sparing few. Instead of furniture, Alberto began crafting coffins, including those for his own wife and children. Now, after burying the reclusive Miss Bonito, Alberto’s food begins going missing. He catches the thief—young Tito Bonito, along with his colorful pet bird, Fia. As boy and bird grow to trust kindly Alberto, Tito becomes his apprentice. Nursing Tito back from a dire illness, Alberto settles him into the children’s room, reading him fantastical tales from The Story of Isola. Through Tito’s perspective, readers learn of the dangerous father that he and Mum fled south to escape. Dreaded Mr. Bonito arrives, aligning with the mayor, to find Tito, leading Alberto, Tito, and magical Fia to enact a daring escape by sea. Woods’ charming narrative evokes a folkloric Mediterranean landscape of jewel-hued dwellings, sparkling water, and colorful, Italian-esque characters (who are default white). Two gossipy sisters wreak havoc, and the vainglorious mayor, as wide as he’s tall, commissions the grandiose casket that serves as the trio’s getaway craft. Isola, the treasure-laden land of their read-aloud, beckons them.
A quietly triumphant tale with a respectful, matter-of-fact regard for the dead. (Fantasy. 8-12)