The Picture Book Buzz

Child of the Sea - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I have sneak peek of a wonderful new folktale for you which releases next Tuesday. I have to admit, before I even knew anything about the story, I was captivated by this cover. Not only because I adore the ocean and collecting sea shells, but the colors, the title, and the girl's enraptured face totally intrigued me. As you'll see, the book definitely lives up to its promise. Like most folktales, it's full of hope, heart, and sacrifice.

Child of the Sea


Author: Maxine Rose Schur


Illustrator: Milanka Reardon


Publisher: Lawley Enterprises LLC (2022)


Ages: 4-10


Fiction


Themes:

Family, love, being true to oneself, and folktales.


Synopsis:

When a fisherman finds a baby girl in his net, he and his wife are overjoyed. Their wish for a child has come true! But as the years go by, Merella, their beloved daughter, has a secret longing - a longing that will lead the fisherman and his wife to a heartrending decision.


In this original folk story, acclaimed author Maxine Rose Schur presents a poetic fable, weaving themes of yearning, fate, and abiding love. Coupled with Milanka Reardon's exquisite illustrations, Child of the Sea delivers a lively, lyrical tale that confirms the universal need to belong and the liberating power of love.


Opening Lines:

There once lived a fisherman and his wife who longed to have a child. Yet they grew old, and their dearest wish did not come true. One morning the fisherman was out on the sea in his little boat when he felt something bouncing in his net. It was the most beautiful fish he had ever seen! Its eyes were the color of the summer sky, and its scales were gold like the waves at eventide


What I LOVED about this book:

Reminiscent of the folktales Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, the Snowmaiden, and Rainbabies by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Jim LaMarche, comes a new folktale of a couple who dreams of having a child.

In a twist on this familiar trope, a fisherman and his wife wish for a child of their own. One day the fisherman finds the most beautiful fish - "Its eyes were the color of the summer sky, and its scales were gold like the waves at eventide."

Text © Maxine Rose Schur, 2022. Image © Milanka Reardon, 2022.


When he puts the fish in a basket in his boat, to show his wife, he discovers instead a sweet, smiling baby girl. Feeling blessed, they name her Merella and lovingly raise the child. Fearing she might revert; they keep away from the sea. But the sea creeps in as she helps her father mend nets, she smells "the briny creatures of the deep" and learns to hum the sea melodies he sings.


One night, drawn to the sea by a dream, Merella dove in and discovered that, despite her father's warning that she might drown, not only could she swim but she felt vibrant and strong in the sea.

Text © Maxine Rose Schur, 2022. Image © Milanka Reardon, 2022.


I'm sure you can imagine what happens next. Torn between the sea and the parents she loves, Marella tries to stay away from the sea. But her increasing weakness when away from the sea, forces the three of them to make painful choices. You will really love the ending and it's stunning illustration.


The often lyrical text - "a vast, dark coverlet, trimmed with white lace, tucked into the corners of the earth" - is accompanied by both a beautiful textural refrain "For though faraway, her voice seems so near—like the sound from a seashell you hold to your ear" and illustrated one which starts on the title page. Elements of this coral/seaweed nest and conch shell appear in key moments within the illustrations.

Text © Maxine Rose Schur, 2022. Image © Milanka Reardon, 2022.


This next painting, that become the dedication/copyright page, portrays how Milanka's softly-colored, almost ephemeral illustrations really heighten the folktale feel of the book. Having sailed in the San Juans, and seen the magic of moonlight across the water, I especially loved her spreads with sparkling trails of moonlight on the sea.

Text © Maxine Rose Schur, 2022. Image © Milanka Reardon, 2022.


It's a beautiful tale of being true to oneself, but also of giving those we love the space to be themselves. The final image is a beautiful tribute to the love that remains, when we are all allowed to be who we are. Like many folktales, it is a bit melancholy, but also full of love and heart.


Resources:

- make your own goldfish (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34JwYk_fi3o&ab_channel=WorldOfArtAndCraft)

- create your own folktale. Either change one you know or make up a whole new one. Here are some ideas (https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plans/teaching-content/activity-plan-4-5-folktale-fun/). With some friends act out your new folktale.

- what similarities and differences do you see between the images where Merella first looks out over the sea and the final image?

- do you think the fish was magical or did someone or something change her into a child? What makes you think that?


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Milanka Reardon (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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