An old man on an island and a young child in a city form a connection through messages in bottles and ships on paper in Brazilian Coelho's wordless, dreamlike spectacle.
An elderly white man wakes, alone but for a few avian companions, and discovers a blank piece of paper in a bottle washed up on the shore of his island home. After some consideration, he pencils on it an intricate drawing of a ship, returns the paper to the bottle, and tosses it back into the waves. Elsewhere, ensconced in an urban landscape, a dark-haired, pale-skinned child comes home to find an unmarked envelope on the doorstep—inside is the old man's drawing. From here, a journey commences—maybe in reality, maybe in a dream—bringing the two characters together in a brief, touching meeting. As with all wordless picture books, this narrative is a negotiation between illustrations and readers. Are these characters grandfather and grandchild crossing space? Future and past versions of the same person transcending time? Or perhaps simply a pair whose loneliness is eased by dreams born of isolation? With spreads defying the barrier of the gutter, varied visual perspectives, and expertly paced page turns, Coelho's methodical cacophony of highly detailed visual invention successfully (if narrowly) avoids miring the narrative momentum in its artistry.
A nuanced physical and emotional landscape aimed to capture experienced readers but likely to snag the occasional neophyte as well. (Picture book. 8 & up)