A boy sets off in a boat, leaving his home behind with only a book, a bottle, a blanket and a teacup of earth from his homeland. The journey is long and filled with changing days at sea. Sometimes it is quiet, other times dangerous, other times dramatic. Then one day, the earth in his teacup begins to sprout, growing into a tree that shelters him, gives him food, and offers hope. Eventually, his boat bumps into land where he moves his tree to a hill and it grows taller. He waits for a whisper and when it comes, he discovers another traveler has joined him.
This is such a gentle book yet it speaks to larger issues of displacement, refugees and homelessness. Young’s text is poetic, creating moments of quietness and moments of wonder, often side-by-side. While we don’t truly get to know the boy himself, the book embraces the journey that people take into the unknown, whether that means leaving your family and country behind or starting a new school.
Ottley’s illustrations are stunningly beautiful. He captures the sea journey with a feeling of expansiveness, the boy and his boat small in the image and sky and sea vast around him. The clouds are immensely lovely, conveying menace and hope as appropriate to the story. These are illustrations to linger over and just feel.
A gorgeous allegory picture book sure to speak to those of us on longer or shorter journeys in our lives. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.