A tale for young readers draws on the enchantments of sea travel.
Inspired variously by the Odyssey, William Blake’s cosmologies, Rumi’s poems, and Charles Kingsley’s stories for youngsters, this novel embraces the magic of childhood imagining. Kate and Chris, along with Kate’s loyal dog, Holly, swim and frolic on a summer shore. A ship built from driftwood becomes their vessel: Kate’s the queen and Chris is the Man of Action, the one who saves them both from wind and water. At first, Kate’s fear of sailing the high seas causes her to abandon ship, but a terrible loneliness sets in, and she regrets leaving. The sudden appearance of a magician saves the day; she answers his riddles to regain her berth. In their boat, the Pearl of the Seas, Kate and Chris pilot through treacherous rocks and come ashore in a welcoming kingdom, where they learn a version of the Tower of Babel story, “the very disaster of our world.” In this hybrid book of narrative blended with verse and song, different ways of telling a story may appear on a single page. The King of Names instructs Kate that “for the deep things it is poetry.” Such wise lessons fortify the children, but even happy dreams must end. Their parting gifts include a magic pebble-pearl that rights the broken mast so they may return to the shore of reality and family. Though the Pearl of the Seas may not buoy them to distant lands again, they determine that Black Inked Pearl—the written record of their travels—shall be their legacy. As in the novel for adults, Finnegan’s (Black Inked Pearl, 2015) “fairytale prequel” for younger readers delights in the associative wordplay of sound and sense. A moment of canine joy provides a vivid illustration: “Still in gleeful flightful lightsome delighting delight. Barking, sparking, larking.” A handful of superb black-and-white drawings by Backshall complements the work’s whimsical vision.
Rollicking and wise, this sailing story mixes prose, poetry, and song, offering a special lyrical gift.